Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last Call

There's a tentative deal on the table as of tonight.

After an intense day of direct and shuttle negotiations, and after a tentative agreement nearly fell apart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the floor of the Senate late Sunday to announce an agreement in principle.

"The compromise we have agreed to is remarkable for a number of reasons, not only because of what it does, but because of what it prevents," Reid said.

"This is an important moment for our country," McConnell noted in response. "I can say with a high degree of confidence that there is a framework in place to assure a significant degree of cuts to Washington spending."

Both men announced the intent to meet with their caucuses Monday morning, to sell the plan, and round up votes for what will have to be rapid legislative action if both chambers are to pass the plan before the country's borrowing authority expires late Tuesday.

President Obama discussed the framework in a public statement at the White House Sunday evening, and urged members of both parties to support the plan. He also criticized Congress for touching off this crisis, and for being unable to arrive at a single grand bargain to improve the country's fiscal situation (with spending cuts and tax increases) and raise the debt limit as well.

The problem is the sell to the House.

House Speaker John Boehner told fellow Republicans on Sunday that he aims to bring a debt-ceiling deal up for a vote "as soon as possible" even though it is not perfect, his office said.

"My hope would be to file it and have it on the floor as soon as possible," Boehner said on a conference call, according to excerpts released by his office. "This isn't the greatest deal in the world. But it shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town."

The Tea Party is being told now they are avoiding the "job-killing default" when voters know damn well that the Tea Party wanted to default in the first place because it was "no big deal" to default.  Now they are going to be furious.  There's a very good chance this deal falls apart.

But even if it does manage to pass as it is right now, President Obama still holds the power over the Bush tax cuts.  That's his weapon and the GOP knows it.

[UPDATE]  White House's fact sheet on the deal is here.

Mechanics of the Debt Deal
  • Immediately enacted 10-year discretionary spending caps generating nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction; balanced between defense and non-defense spending.
  • President authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for further increases until 2013.   
  • Bipartisan committee process tasked with identifying an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, including from entitlement and tax reform. Committee is required to report legislation by November 23, 2011, which receives fast-track protections. Congress is required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.
  • Enforcement mechanism established to force all parties – Republican and Democrat – to agree to balanced deficit reduction. If Committee fails, enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 – split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts.    

Getting Randy About The Debt Ceiling

Arguably the least useful single legislator in this entire debt ceiling mess is Kentucky's own Sen. Rand Paul, who has basically been nothing but a Tea Party apologist trying to pretend he's "compromising".  CNN's Don Lemon takes him out back behind the woodshed.

“Let’s just do the interview without talking points– let’s just talk to each other,” Lemon began, though followed up with a barbed question: “Democrats and Republicans are both pointing fingers at you. What will make you and the Tea Party happy?” Sen. Paul immediately made a correction to his introduction: “In your lead, you said I rejected both plans. I actually accepted both plans… with an amendment.” Sen. Paul had proposed a balanced budget amendment which gained no traction in exchange for his vote. “I think that’s a very reasonable position,” he offered.

The launched an uncomfortable back and forth in which Lemon repeated asked how he had voted on the House bill, until Lemon moved on, with another tough question– whether Sen. Paul worried that voting against the bill would be “overreaching” that would make him “lose respect and clout.” At this point the conversation gets heated enough that Lemon has to remind the senator to “please be respectful here,” while an indignant Sen. Paul later argued that “there is no reason to default” and that the President “should have taken default off the table” rather than promote it. Either way, “we have plenty of tax revenue to pay the interest on our debt.”

Nice.  See, Rand Paul is perfectly happy for use to pay interest on our borrowing and not default, but to do that we would have to shut down the government and eliminate 25% spending immediately, including Medicare and SS.  Rand Paul figures "That's President Obama's problem, let him deal with it."  Then he whines about how Obama is a horrible person for mentioning default.

Useless.  So glad my fellow Kentuckians voted this clown into office where he can completely avoid doing anything to help Kentucky.

Arab Spring Becomes Slaughter Summer

Meanwhile, while we're all enraptured by this debt nonsense, Syria's government is sending tanks to quell its citizens and "scores" are reported dead all in the middle of a near press blackout situation.

Syrian security forces have launched a major assault on Hama, the country's third-largest city, a day before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The National Organisation for Human Rights, a Syrian activist group, said 136 people were killed in Hama and three other centres across the country on Sunday.

The activist group reported at least 100 deaths in Hama, after tanks and soldiers stormed the city and said that dozens of anti-government protesters died in Deir ez-Zor, Harak and Al Bukamal.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin said that the number of deaths "are on the rise and the government seems adamant in wanting to crush the protests".

"We have seen that the government had intensified its effort to try and end the wave of protesters or contain it over the past two weeks using more severe measures, like mass arrests of activists as well as just regular people who took part in the protests, or sometimes never even went to the streets.

"So it seems that the government is expecting some sort of escalation in the protest movement during the month of Ramadan and they are trying to pre-empt it," our correspondent, reporting from neighbouring Lebanon, said.

The Syrian government has banned Al Jazeera and many other foreign media outlets from reporting from inside the country, making it difficult to verify reports of fighting.

Just some much-needed global perspective as we decry how awful our own political system could be worse.  A republic if you can keep it, and all that.  A gigantic chunk of the world never had a republic to try to keep.

What will the State Department's response be to this open slaughter?  I'd like very much to see Hillary Clinton go on record in some fashion.


A plane breaks in half and everyone survives, all 163 of them.  Check this out:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Flight 523 from New York had just touched down and passengers were applauding the pilot's landing in the South American country Saturday when something suddenly went wrong.
The Boeing 737-800 slid off the end of a rainy runway, crashed through a chain-link fence and broke in half just short of a deep ravine. Yet all 163 people on board survived.
I'm sympathetic to plane crashes.  I can control myself, but I am painfully aware of being in the air when flying.  These guys weren't in the air, but when all hell broke loose they were still faced with the big scary monster that every flyer has faced.  They were helpless and at the mercy of a malfunctioning plane, in this case heading towards a ravine.  There's some serious pucker factor right there.

This gets a super good karma thumbs up.   

Today's WTH Is Brought To You By The Number Eight

drunk Mississippi man reportedly let his 8-year-old son drive on a Louisiana highway, reported the Associated Press.    
Louisiana state police said they received a call at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning of a green pickup truck driving erratically on the highway.  Moreover, it appeared that a child was driving.
When the police finally stopped the car, they discovered 28-year-old Billy Joe Madden sleeping in the passenger seat, his 8-year-old son at the wheel, and his 4-year-old daughter sitting in the back seat.
Madden reportedly fell asleep while he made his son drive the vehicle on their trip from Hattiesburg, MS to Dallas, TX.
Okay, I don't think there is a whole lot to say here.  This is one of those "I just had to share this" sort of tales.  The article goes on to cite other instances where parents had children drive, though all of them were older than eight.

EIGHT.  On a highway.  

Tell me this man is never allowed to be around kids ever again.  

Miss Scarlett, In The Conservatory, WIth The Box Of Wine

Because Jennifer Rubin hasn't been hacktastic enough on the debt ceiling fight for the Washington Post, because Peggy Noonan hasn't chugged all the booze for the Wall Street Journal yet, we complete the Obama Derangement Syndrome harridan trifecta with Maureen "Sweetie, darling!" Dowd in the NY Times this morning in full AbFab mode.

Ancient incantations and eye of newt — not that Newt — would be the only way to conjure up a less embarrassing group of leaders.

The world is watching in fearful — and sometimes gleeful — fascination as the Tea Party drives a Thunderbird off the cliff with the president and speaker of the House strapped in the back. The Dow is hiding under the bed with a glass of single malt. Can it get more excruciating? Apple has more cash than the U.S. government.

Amid the chilling anarchy, there’s not a single strong leader to be seen — not even a misguided one. All the leaders are followers. You have to wonder if President Obama at some level doesn’t want to lead. Maybe he just wants to be loved

Yes, because the problem with the Tea Party is that President Obama isn't assertive enough.  Boy if he just gave those Tea Party maniacs a good talking to from the bully pulpit, they'd just wither like hothouse orchids and we'd never hear from them again.  But nobody loves Obama, especially not the people who voted for him.

Democratic lawmakers worry that the Tea Party freshmen have already “neutered” the president, as one told me. They fret that Obama is an inept negotiator. They worry that he should have been out in the country selling a concrete plan, rather than once more kowtowing to Republicans and, as with the stimulus plan, health care and Libya, leading from behind.

As one Democratic senator complained: “The president veers between talking like a peevish professor and a scolding parent.” (Not to mention a jilted lover.) Another moaned: “We are watching him turn into Jimmy Carter right before our eyes.”

Obama’s “We must lift ourselves to a higher place” trope doesn’t work on this rough crowd. If somebody at dinner is about to kill you, you don’t worry about his table manners.

More and more, 2008 looks like the tulip mania.

When Obama came before the cameras Friday to say that “any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan,” many Democrats wish he had just gone all unilateral and taken Bill Clinton’s advice to invoke the 14th Amendment. They yearned to see the president beat the political suicide bombers over the head with the Constitution. Impeaching a constitutional lawyer for saving the economy would be an even more difficult sell than impeaching a rogue for fibbing about a dalliance.

Boy she doesn't miss a single emoprog trope there, does she?  Obama is a bloodless wimp who has been emasculated, he's leading from behind, Clinton would have done better, he's a terrible negotiator, he's Jimmy Carter, why hasn't he gone all unilateral yet, yadda yadda.

Look, I want POTUS to consider the 14th too, but in order to do that and win the war that will come after, he has to do it as an absolute last resort.  He must make an abosolute good faith effort to negotiate.  And to do so, he has to show that absolutely nothing can pass the House and Senate and that compromise is impossible.

Then, and only then, can he "be all unilateral" against these clowns.  This "Obama has to be our daddy" thing is not healthy.  We shouldn't be insisting the President act unilaterally on anything, and here we are moaning about Obama doing exactly what we hated Dubya for doing.

And even then, the 14th would go to the Supreme Court.  No guarantee it would ever be allowed to be used.

We'll see what the Reid deal entails.

It's All The Horn Section

Black market rhino horns are going for so much in Europe and Asia right now that thieves are resorting to brazen daytime robberies of museums, science centers, and private collectors to get them.  The latest target?  The Belgian Natural History Museum in Brussels.

"For 80 years we took care of it and from one day to the next it's no longer there," said Georges Lenglet, vertebrate exhibit curator at the Brussels museum, who has little hope of seeing the head again.

The museum had never been robbed until the July heist, when it became the latest of a rising number of science museums in Europe targeted by thieves for rhino horns, which can fetch tens of thousands of euros on the black market.

"It's a nasty little piece of criminal activity," Patrick Byrne, head of the organised crime networks unit at the European police agency Europol, told AFP.

Europol suspects an Irish organised crime group is behind a spate of robberies that has hit not only museums but also zoos, auction houses, antique dealers and private collectors across the continent over the past 18 months.

The gang, known to use violence and intimidation, is involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and smuggling of counterfeit products, but has seized too on a lucrative niche market in the sale of rhino horns.

Scotland Yard says the spike in museum thefts is driven by a significant increase in the value of rhino horns in Asia. Depending on its size, a horn can sell for 25,000 to 200,000 euros (34,000 to 288,000 dollars), according to Europol.

The horns are usually ground into powder and end up in the Asian market where they are prized for purported medicinal virtues to cure fevers, headaches, typhoid and smallpox. Their use for impotence is merely a myth.

What's not a myth is these horns fetch big money in Europe's floundering economy, and that it's depressing to see people resorting to stealing from science museums in order to get them.  I mean I understand that a quarter-million in a smash and grab operation is nothing to sneeze at, but...a museum?

Geez.  Where's a superhero when you need one.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Last Call

It's down to triggers on the debt ceiling impasse.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) isn't saying why both sides aren't any closer to a debt deal after a day filled with feverish negotiations Saturday, but Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) spelled it out during a floor speech Saturday night.

The sticking point for Dems, Kerry said, involves detailed negotiations over an enforcement mechanism that would require Congress to act on entitlement and tax reform by a date certain or faces the consequences. Democrats want to ensure that such a trigger does not simply mandate severe spending cuts, but also includes tax increases -- the so-called "shared pain" Democrats have cited lately. 

Naturally, the GOP in the Senate aren't biting, and as such the vote has been postponed 12 hours from 1 AM Sunday morning to 1 PM Sunday afternoon.

As noted here, Republicans are insisting on skewed triggers. The source provided some fresh details on precisely what they're asking for. One of their proposals would alter the way the government calculates inflation. It would thus reduce automatic increases in tax bracket levels and Social Security cost of living adjustments -- in effect a regressive tax increase, and a Social Security cut, each of which would result in modest savings.

Democrats reject this so called "chained CPI" option because they fear Republicans would happily block a balanced spending cut/tax increase package in favor of an automatic Social Security cut.

Republicans have also proposed "automatic sequestration" -- across the board spending cuts, including to entitlements -- with no corresponding revenue increases.

And we're right back to square one: Republicans refuse any revenue increases whatsoever and insist we have to cut spending...and cut it from Social Security.  Once again the GOP is playing for "When the clock runs out we get everything we want" so they will run the clock out.  It's what they are playing for right now.  They never, ever, ever, ever were going to make a deal in good faith.

Time for the 14th.

"I'm talking about that there's precedents for presidents to do things where the Constitution doesn't give the president explicit authority but it doesn't prohibit the president from doing it, and I believe there's a basis in the 14th amendment as decided in Perry v. United States," Sen Tom Harkin (D-IA) said on the Senate floor. "I think the president - barring action from the Congress - not only has the authority to do so, he has the responsibility to not let this country default."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who already called on Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment days ago, repeated the suggestion on the floor tonight as time marched on and the sun outside grew increasingly faint.

The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reported Saturday night that Pelosi may be changing her tune on the idea. Citing an unnamed member of Congress, Bendery reports that Pelosi is supportive of a 14th Amendment option behind the scenes

Now we're getting somewhere.  What are the Republicans going to do, impeach Obama?  They were going to do that anyway, you know.  Let them play that card when a vast majority of the country, some 71% mind you, disapprove of how the GOP has handled the debt ceiling mess.

Take the gloves off.  No reasonable deal is forthcoming.

A Rare Chance

Thanks to the hard work of some creative scientists, you can now go on an accurate 3-D tour of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.  This gives teachers an innovative new tool to bring history to life.  For geeky folks like me, it is a chance to experience something we likely will never come close to otherwise.  The tiny robot is not invasive, and captures images to allow the 3-D rendering to be as realistic as possible.

With help of cutting-edge 3D technology, the video lets users take a peek inside the 146m-high Great Pyramid, the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing.
The scene appears as it might have 45 centuries ago - full of the loyal people of the second ruler of the fourth dynasty.
But the film is not pure entertainment - besides the educational aspect, it tries to explain one of the theories behind the pyramid's construction.
Lying north of modern-day Cairo, the largest and oldest of the three pyramids of the royal necropolis of Giza is believed to have been built as Khufu's tomb.

Just... awesome.  

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 36

As if northeastern Japan needed any more disaster-related problems right now, the country is facing brutal summer rains and deadly flooding.

Floods claimed their first victim in Japan and nearly 300,000 people were urged to flee their homes Saturday as a weather system that killed dozens on the Korean peninsula swept the country.

Local governments in the central province of Niigata and tsunami-hit Fukushima issued the guidance after the national weather agency urged citizens to be on maximum alert against more flooding and mudslides.

Helicopter footage on NHK showed bridges over the Shinano River in Niigata partially submerged, while trees and telephone polls had been knocked down.

Kamo City in Niigata was extensively flooded, with water submerging roads.

Forecasters warned that the rains could continue to be torrential after reaching 1,000 millimetres (40 inches) to date in Sanjo City, Niigata, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Tokyo, since they started Wednesday.

Yes, you're reading that correctly, a meter of rain in 4 days, and more on the way.  And yes, this is the same part of Japan, Fukushima prefecture, that has the still hot nuclear power plant disaster continuing.

Japan still needs help desperately, please keep them in mind.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 47

News is that 43 GOP Senators have vowed to block the Reid debt ceiling amendment in the Senate early Sunday morning, meaning there's basically no way forward right now.  I'm not sure what actually can be done, because the GOP has the vote to filibuster anything in the Senate, and of course will not let anything remotely viable pass the House.

Unless something major changes in the next 10-12 hours or so, we are heading off the cliff Tuesday morning.  We'll see what will happen, but right now there's nothing remotely hopeful about the situation.

And yes, my mistake was underestimating the Tea Party's willingness to destroy America's economy and put us into a near-depression in order to bring down President Obama.

Second Verse, Little Bit Louder And A Little Bit Worse

When I created the Privacy Stupidity tag, I expected it to be specific, not not necessarily a regular.  Right now this will make 34, which is about 25 more than expected.  The sad thing is that I haven't even scratched the surface.

Microsoft has collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world and makes them available on the Web without taking the privacy precautions that competitors have, CNET has learned.
The vast database available through publishes the precise geographical location, which can point to a street address and sometimes even a corner of a building, of Android phones, Apple devices, and other Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.
Unlike Google and Skyhook Wireless, which have compiled similar lists of these unique Wi-Fi addresses, Microsoft has not taken any measures to curb access to its database.
No measures to protect that information?  What the hell?  With all the headlines regarding cell phone privacy I can't believe this was an oversight.  So what was it?  Without legal definition, we are at the mercy of interpretation.  This cannot go on.  We should know what information is collected about us and have the right to opt out.  Neither can happen while ambiguous terms and selective enforcement leave wiggle room for criminal invasions.  This should be a major storm and right now it's more of an "oops, well lookit that" sort of reaction.

What.  The.  Hell.

Grudging Respect For Fanatics Is Still Idiocy, Taylor

I understand most people have written off Taylor Marsh since her PUMA days in 2007-2008, but at this point she's finally fully crossed over into the abyss she's been yammering about for three years.

Our political culture is so wrapped up in moderation, centrism, capitulation and compromise that the Tea Party extortionists are the only political class in this country who stand for anything, albeit a whole lot of crazy. Whereas, Democrats and Republicans are basically different sides of the same corrupt coin, with Mr. Wonderful at the top, whether you’re talking about Obama or Romney; both mean nothing to behold when it comes to leadership or standing on a line. Mitt Romney’s learned well from Obama’s straddling stance of non-declaration and is basically following his “present” political state of mind.

She then goes on to say President Obama has a chance, but only because the public isn't paying attention to how unremittingly awful Baritt Oromney is. 

Also notice we have both of the major Firebagger fallacies distilled into one paragraph, first that there is no discernible difference between the two major political parties or their candidates, and second that the Tea Party deserves your respect because "at least they stand for something."

One would think this week would have disproved the first theory, and that the long annals of history's most dangerous fanatics would have already disproved the second, but that's what happens when your agenda was always to get rid of Barack Obama in the first place.  You look for any reason to justify that position, and here we have Taylor Marsh now saying that there's some merit to the Tea Party that's literally days away from plunging us into another recession, if not depression.

The most dangerous human quality is our ability to justify anything, it seems.  Given the events of this week, that's one crossed line too many.

The Fourteenth Option, Part 3

Lawrence O'Donnell and UCLA law prof. Jon Zasloff discuss what President Obama can and cannot do with the 14th amendment.

The most important thing to understand is if on Tuesday morning the Treasury does not have enough money to pay its debts, to pay its obligations and pay appropriations that Congress has already appropriate appropriated, that puts the President in a tight spot.  He can either take on more debt to pay these obligations, which has a constitutional problem, or what he can do is say if the Treasury doesn't have enough money, I'm going to pick and choose which debts, which obligations, which appropriations I'm going to pay.

The problem is the Supreme Court has already specifically held the President does not have that constitutional power.  The President cannot pick and choose, so the idea that somehow the President doesn't have the authority to raise the debt ceiling by himself and so what he has to do is pick and choose which debts, obligations, and appropriations to spend creates as many constitutional problems as it solves.

The question now is we have a situation where you have a Congress that has put the President in a situation where damned if you do, damned if you don't.  Nevertheless, pretty much every Constitutional scholar has recognized, there's some reserve power the president has in an absolute emergency to avoid catastrophes like a default on the debt, a default on obligations, default on appropriations, appropriations which, by the way, Congress has told him he must spend, and it's that reserve power in an emergency in a very limited circumstance that the advocates of the 14th amendment are saying that that is why the President can lift the debt ceiling by himself.

More importantly, Zasloff argues that since that authority covers preserving the full faith and credit of previous Congresses in meeting their obligations, that in this case President Obama can use that power to say that the 112th Congress must meet the obligations of previous ones.

It's important to note that the way things are looking right now, the President may very well have to do this Monday night if as I expect there's enough Tea Party opposition to getting the Reid bill through the House...that is if it even survives a Senate GOP filibuster early tomorrow morning.  No guarantee on that for sure.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Last Call

So here we are going into the final stretch on Debtmogeddon:

As promised, all Senate Democrats aligned Friday night to kill the just-passed House Republican bill to raise the debt limit.

The roll call fell closely along party lines, 59-41, with all Democrats voting to table Speaker John Boehner's controversial bill, joined by several Republicans who also oppose that plan.

Now we enter a period of calm. Before midnight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to introduce his own debt limit bill -- amended to include more spending cuts, and a few as-yet undisclosed carrots, to entice enough Republicans to overcome a filibuster and pass the legislation.

Senate Democratic aides confirm that the legislation is being updated now, but the precise details are tightly held.

They need to get those details right. House Republicans have scheduled a symbolic Saturday vote to knock down the original version of Reid's bill -- a move meant to illustrate that without further cuts and enticements can't Reid's bill pass the House.

Odds are very good that nothing Reid can put forward will be able to pass the House.   After that, well, we're deep into the "Here There Be Default" part of the map.  Tomorrow the House is expected to kill the un-modified Reid bill, while the actual bill gets sent back to the House if it passes a filibuster in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

After that, the Senate would vote on it first thing Monday, and then to the House it would go.  Whether any of this happens, who knows.  Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi still will not greenlight the 14th Amendment solution.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday declined to endorse a 14th Amendment solution to the debt-ceiling impasse.

All of Pelosi's top lieutenants have urged President Obama to invoke the Constitution and hike the debt limit unilaterally as a last resort if Congress fails to act by the Aug. 2 default deadline.

But Pelosi, thus far, is staying on the sidelines of that debate.

"I hope that we can come to an agreement before then," Pelosi said as she left a Democratic Caucus meeting Friday afternoon. "That's where I'm focusing my attention."

Without Pelosi's blessing I don't see Obama even bothering.  Noise from the White House this evening suggests a short extension, 48 hours or so, if it means a real plan.  My guess though is no plan remains forthcoming that will pass the GOP.

From here I don't honestly know what will happen.

The Pain In Spain, Part 2

Ahh, but across the pond in Europe, the financial mess over there is still in full swing, and there are a whole lot more individual countries with ugly credit rating problems to worry about, like Spain.

Rating agency Moody's put Spain on review for a possible downgrade on Friday, adding to concerns that a Greek rescue package has done little to halt the spread of Europe's debt crisis.

Moody's move to place the Aa2 government bond rating on review cited concerns over growth and said funding costs would continue to be high in the wake of euro zone leaders' bolder moves to curb the Greek crisis last week.

That added to a sense that Spain - and Italy - are still firmly in the firing line, and the euro and Spanish bond prices fell in response.

Particular focus rested on Spain's regional governments, many of whom are struggling with burgeoning debt loads after a decade of reckless spending. Analysts fear control over regions' debt loads is slipping out of the central government's grasp.

Regional authorities will miss their collective budget deficit target by up to 0.75 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), Moody's said, hampering the central government's program of austerity to reduce the overall shortfall.

"Regional governments' finances may prove difficult to control due to structural spending pressures, particularly in the healthcare sector," Moody's said in a release.

Translation: People are still expecting another major European bailout, and we'd be talking about it if everyone wasn't scared out of their wits that the Tea Party here in the states is about to push the Big Red Button.  The PIIGS nations are still quite firmly in real trouble and the Greek Fire is spreading. It's pretty clear that people are expecting a huge, comprehensive European bailout package and soon.

Nooners' Torch Song For President Obama

Ahh, Peggy Noonan.  When one needs the opinion of President Obama by a woman with the same dysfunctional love-hate relationship as a drunken stalker ex on a lost weekend, you can always count on Nooners.
But that actually is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about something that started to become apparent to me during the debt negotiations. It's something I've never seen in national politics.
It is that nobody loves Obama. This is amazing because every president has people who love him, who feel deep personal affection or connection, who have a stubborn, even beautiful refusal to let what they know are just criticisms affect their feelings of regard. At the height of Bill Clinton's troubles there were always people who'd say, "Look, I love the guy." They'd often be smiling—a wry smile, a shrugging smile. Nobody smiles when they talk about Mr. Obama. There were people who loved George W. Bush when he was at his most unpopular, and they meant it and would say it. But people aren't that way about Mr. Obama. He has supporters and bundlers and contributors, he has voters, he may win. But his support is grim support. And surely this has implications.
Ahh, we're back to Nooners being spurned by the imaginary Old Spice Guy she sees the President to be and instead she sees the bloodless, frigidly logical Vulcan who inspires nothing in the depth of her own broken soul, and that's pretty much normal Nooners.  Oh, but she's really, really mad at the President in this week's column.
The secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people. The other day a Republican political veteran forwarded me a hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. It read like politics as done by Martians. The "Analytics Department" is looking for "predictive Modeling/Data Mining" specialists to join the campaign's "multi-disciplinary team of statisticians," which will use "predictive modeling" to anticipate the behavior of the electorate. "We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions."
This wasn't the passionate, take-no-prisoners Clinton War Room of '92, it was high-tech and bloodless. Is that what politics is now? Or does the Obama re-election effort reflect the candidate and his flaws?
He's too intelligent, too nerdy, too analytical, and he's failed failed failed FAILED to stop the naughty Tea Party from ruining her cotillion or whatever.  Look, the only thing more gorram obnoxious than the stupid President Angry McBlackhulksmash stuff is the President Tuvok bullshit, and I for one am personally getting sick of the cartoonish racism that says Barack Obama is only capable of two emotional states, endless rage or nothing.

If you argue that President Obama is even capable of complex nuance, you're a hopeless Obot chump, apparently.  Clinton just "got people" and Dubya just "got people" and Obama just "doesn't get people", so he's a flippin' caricature, the kind of two-dimensional meatbag you find in a Michael Bay film.  He's always, always too angry (and makin' the white folk swoon with his ethnic rage) or just dead inside, and it's getting to the point where people just don't choose to understand that there's a cultural difference in when, where, and how a black man in America is allowed to display emotion as opposed to a white man, let alone when that man is President of the United States.

I understand the need of the Village to distill everything down to sound bites and political cartoons that sum up Presidents in a split second, but that's not who Barack Obama is.  The sound bites are not the man, and when this much is at stake with the Tea Party literally trying to destroy the economy in order to take POTUS out, relying on cardboard standies is not only bad judgment, it's bad for the country as a whole.

So yes, President Barack Hussein Obama is a complex, complicated man.  He has a unique perspective on a lot of American culture and on American politics.  He is staggeringly intelligent.  He has a loving family.  He was raised by a single white mother in Hawaii.  He challenges all the preconceived notions of what a black man is in America in 2011.   But what do we get?  Reductio ad Noonium.  She can't handle the truth.  Hell, tens of millions of Americans can't.

Oh, and Nooners is totally hawt for POTUS.  Just so you know.

More Be-Shear Chutzpah

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  the closest thing the Republicans have to a moderate Governor is Kentucky's own Democrat "Dinosaur" Steve Beshear.  Ol' Dinosaur Steve is insisting he totally didn't dump President Obama at Ft. Campbell in May to meet the troops that pulled off BOOM HEADSHOT on Bin Laden.

Beshear's opponent this year, David Williams, smells blood and finally, two months later, Beshear is going on the record to say that President Obama wisely never even invited Dinosaur Steve to the ceremony in the first place, invariably to save him from having to turn down being seen with POTUS in a state where his approval ratings are in the mid-30s at best.

Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday that he did not mislead the public when he said a scheduling conflict prevented him from appearing with President Barack Obama at Fort Campbell in May.

Although the White House did not extend a formal invitation for Beshear to attend Obama's appearance, Beshear said he would have been there to greet the president if his schedule had allowed it.

"We learned of the president's visit about 36 hours before it was to take place," Beshear said during a Capitol news conference called to discuss an education grant. "There were apparently no formal invitations sent, but I feel as governor it is always my responsibility and privilege to welcome a president of the United States."

At the time of Obama's appearance, Beshear said he was already scheduled to meet with executives at Churchill Downs on the friday before the Kentucky Derby.

Beshear was criticized by many, including Republican gubernatorial challenger David Williams, for appearing to snub the president and the troops Obama was honoring who were involved in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

But the Associated Press reported on Wednesday that a series of Beshear administration e-mails showed Beshear was never formally invited to attend the event. Williams, the Senate president from Burkesville, accused Beshear on Wednesday of lying to the public about why he didn't attend the event with Obama. 

President Obama is not popular in Kentucky, and that's putting it mildly.  He lost the state to McCain-Palin in 2008 by 16 points.  Out of 120 counties in the Bluegrass State, Barack Obama won eight of them, and that was before the economy got worse.  So yes, the President was smart enough to not invite Beshear in the first place, so that he could happily make up whatever excuse necessary to not be there within 100 yards of the President.  It's the worst-kept secret in Kentucky politics.  Beshear himself is enjoying 60%+ ratings and will most likely cruise to an easy win in November, but literally the last thing he wants to do is be seen with POTUS in this state.

It's the ugly truth here in Kentucky, but there it is.  New tag: Dinosaur Steve.

Patriot, My Ass

Wired got me started on this again.  With all the other stuff going on, I was temporarily distracted.  I've been waiting for this to build since the first articles surfaced, hoping there would be some breakthrough that filled some mighty serious gaps in information.  It's still not completely filled in, but there is enough now to see some mighty big problems. 
For months, two Senators have screamed bloody murder that the government holds a secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act so broad that it amounts to a whole different law giving the feds massive domestic surveillance powers. Now, a measure by Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall would force the U.S. intelligence chief, and by extension the entire intelligence community, to admit that they went too far in their Patriot Act interpretations — if they don’t find a way to wiggle out of it.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence meets Thursday to prepare the annual bill authorizing the U.S. intelligence agency’s operations. During that “mark-up” process, Wyden and Udall will ask their colleagues to include a measure compelling the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to produce a “detailed assessment of the problems posed by the reliance of government agencies” (.pdf) on “interpretations of domestic surveillance authorities that are inconsistent with the understanding of such authorities by the public.” Wyden’s staff provided Danger Room with a copy of the proposed amendment.

Sounds to me like someone is calling bullshit.   For a few reasons I am inclined to give these two the benefit of the doubt.  They aren't asking for change, they are demanding the public know the rules and details of what has been decided for them.  They argue for disclosure about process, not specific details.    No way should our government decide what citizens should know about its policies.  Transparency is required for citizens to hold government accountable.  If we are subject to it, we are (logically) entitled to know what we are subject to.  What is bothersome is how convinced they are that the people are going to freak out when they know the truth.  There is nothing to gain by being wrong.  If there is nothing of interest, it would be political suicide to make a hollow accusation of this magnitude.  If they turn out to be right, they could look like heroes at a time when people are increasingly becoming upset and feeling helpless about how they are treated by their own government.

Take it however you want, but it's clear government is testing its limits.  There could be a whole different kind of civil war if the government continues to push and then cross the line.  I really enjoyed this article.  His worst case scenario isn't hyperbole, it's actually possible.  That scares the hell out of me.  

I hope this gains attention and we get some more facts to work with.  And kudos to Wired. I offer a humble apology for being surprised at their chops.  

Circumcision Snipped From Ballot

(CNN) -- San Francisco residents will not be voting on whether male circumcisions should be banned in the city this fall.
A Superior Court judge ordered Thursday that the proposed measure, which had initially made it onto the November 8 city ballot, be removed entirely.
The measure proposed banning male circumcisions with the penalty of jail time or a $1,000 fine. It would not have granted religious exemptions.
 The decision is personal, and up to parents to decide for their children.  There are valid reasons on both sides of the debate, but what it amounts to is that nobody has the right to tell parents what medical and religious decisions they make for their kids.  People can disagree, but in the end if they can choose for themselves and their family the important battle has been won.

I Got Mine, The Rest Of You Rot In Hell

Michele Bachmann:  leading by example.

BACHMANN: Now unlike all of you, who I’m sure pay cash for your homes, there are people out there like myself who actually have to go to a bank and get a mortgage. And this is the problem. It’s almost impossible to buy a home in this country today without the federal government being involved. Whether it is with the FHA, whether it’s with Fannie, whether it’s with Freddie, it’s almost impossible to buy a home…What’s important is that we do dismantle a number of these federal programs that everyone agrees are clearly out of control.

To recap, federal programs that benefit Michele Bachmann personally are fine.  It's the ones she doesn't use that have to be eliminated because those programs are out of control.

GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann (R) has been in hot water in recent weeks for personally taking advantage of hundreds of thousands of dollars in government aid while denouncing the very programs she benefited from. Most recently, the Washington Post discovered that Bachmann and her husband signed for a $417,000 home loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac just weeks before she called for the two mortgage giants to be entirely dismantled.

Bachmann has been a consistently fierce critic of mortgage lending programs and has advocated abolishing the government sponsored mortgage enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet she took out the maximum possible loan from those programs to finance her family’s move to a lavish 5,200-square-foot home on a golf course. 

Food stamps, for evil welfare queens who are gaming the system.  Jumbo mortgages backed by the Federal government?  Perfectly reasonable use of taxpayer money.

This woman would lose the election to be President of her own fan club.

Epic Fiscal Responsibility Fail

There is fail, and then there is Republican Tea Party Fail(tm).

Last night the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story that Tea Party freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who has spent months lecturing President Obama and Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes $117,437 in child support to his ex-wife and three children. Laura Walsh has asked a judge to suspend his driver’s license until he pays his child support. Despite loaning his own campaign $35,000 — and paying himself back at least $14,200 for the loans — Walsh claims he failed to make the payments because he “had no money.”

The tax-bashing congressman campaigned on a pledge to reject the Washington “status quo” and has bragged about his own frugality, claiming he even sleeps in his congressional office to save money. Walsh, who’s been described as “the biggest media hound in the freshman class,” has been a prominent voice in the debt ceiling showdown in recent weeks, making television appearances almost every day to denounce President Obama’s “reckless spending,” which he says has “bankrupted this country.”

To recap, the guy who is the voice of "fiscal responsibility" and ruthlessly scolds President Obama for his budgets won't even pay his own child support because he's a deadbeat dad.  He owes over a hundred thousand dollars, people.  You don't get much more Tea Party then that.

These are the assholes now in charge of squeezing our country dry.

This is not the first time Walsh has faced scrutiny for the disconnect between his rhetoric and the way he conducts his personal life. In 2009, Walsh lost a condo to foreclosure because he owed more than $300,000 on the property. In April 2010, an investigation revealed that Walsh failed to file his personal financial disclosure form as required by federal election law. When questions about his personal finances dogged his congressional campaign, Walsh once again claimed he wasn’t a rich man, despite managing to pay $3,300 per month for a house in upscale Winnetka.

And yet this guy is a Tea Party hero.  He's a crook and a heel is what he is.


For Want Of A State Senator, A Battle Was Lost

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue is in a situation very much akin to the one President Obama is in currently: a Democratic executive trying to fight off the Tea Party GOP hordes.  She lost her veto battle with the state's budget which means Planned Parenthood funding is gone and the state's education budget was ransacked.  Now, by one vote, Republicans have overruled her veto on strict new anti-choice laws that will leave thousands of women at risk.

Women must obtain ultrasounds, state-mandated counseling, and wait 24 hours before abortions under new requirements the state approved today.

The state Senate voted 29-19 to cancel Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a bill that seeks to limit abortions.
The House voted to override earlier this week, so the measure becomes law.
Democrats said the measure interferes in decisions between women and their doctors. Republicans said the requirements make sure women have more information.

Sen. Stan Bingham, a Republican who voted against the bill in June, left the building before the override vote

So by walking out, Bingham allowed his Republican buddies to override the veto and continue the Tea Party idiocy in my home state, because women are too stupid and emotionally immature to make decisions about their body, they have to have a waiting period to cool off their flighty girl brains, they have to be counseled against the procedure because they're too stupid to know better, and have to be shown an ultrasound to shame them out of it.

The same party that believes the lack of choice in the type of light bulb you buy is "government interference" hill to die on absolutely wants the government to interfere as much as possible in a woman's reproductive choices.  What a lovely bunch of assclowns.

So add North Carolina to the list of states being sucked under in the Tea Party tide.  Hey voters, you can do something about this in 2012, just so you know.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last Call

Sarah Palin tries desperately to stay relevant to American politics by going back to the racial dog whistle well on President Obama.

Blasting the White House and liberals for being “so addicted to that OPM, other people’s money,” Palin declared that Obama “is not capable of giving the right message” to the American people. Though a majority of Americans side with Obama’s position, Fox asked Palin why he seems so disconnected from the public. Palin harped on the all-too-familiar right-wing refrain that American ideals “seem[] to be foreign to our President” because of “his background. She added, “His ideas are the antithesis of those things that created the prosperity in America.”

He's not one of us, he is The Other, etc. etc.  Oldest political attack in the book, plus you throw in that the nation's first black POTUS is "addicted to other people's money" and you have September 2008 all over again.

Palin, with her documentary an obvious failure, is now trying to go back to her old tried and true staples in order to get people to pay attention to her.  The only addict here is Palin's narcissistic ego.

Oh, and no debt ceiling vote tonight.  Orange Julius would rather waste America's time and credit rating then lose a vote on legislation that has zero chance to pass.

The Price Of Loyal-Tea

By being the most vocal opponent of Orange Julius's doomed plan in the Buckeye State's GOP delegation, OH-4 Republican Jim Jordan has apparently volunteered to join Democrat Dennis Kucinich as the other Congressman who loses their seat due to Ohio's redistricting.  The Columbus Dispatch:

Two Republican sources deeply involved in configuring new Ohio congressional districts confirmed to The Dispatch today that Jordan's disloyalty to Boehner has put him in jeopardy of being zeroed out of a district.

"Jim Jordan's boneheadedness has kind of informed everybody's thinking," said one of the sources, both of whom spoke only on condition of anonymity. "The easiest option for everybody has presented itself."

Jordan's rural 11-county district, which has a 60 percent Republican voter index, "is easy to cannibalize because it stretches so far," said the other source.

Hostilities between Boehner and Jordan, whose districts abut each other, broke out into the open this week as the speaker struggled to line up votes from tea party conservatives in the House for his plan to raise the debt ceiling while cutting as much as $3 trillion over the next decade.

Jordan, a tea party favorite who chairs the 170-plus member Republican Study Committee, has stymied Boehner's efforts to raise the debt ceiling. On Wednesday, the rift exploded when it was discovered a key aide to the committee sent emails to conservative groups urging them to push undecided Republicans to vote against Boehner's plan.

The undermining of Boehner was the last straw for Statehouse Republicans controlling the redistricting process in Ohio, saying Jordan's refusal to be a team player should cost him his job.

"He doesn't know it, but he solved a problem for Republican line-drawers by (figuratively) standing up and saying, 'I'm a jerk and I deserved to be punished,' " said one of the sources.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, frankly...and if the GOP civil war wasn't truly on before, then the Speaker of the House redistricting out the chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee absolutely started the music playing for this ballroom blitz.  This story went out over the wires this afternoon before today's Orange Julius 2.0 plan was to be voted on, and the message is absolutely clear that the Tea Party better follow Boehner or else.

Follow him right off the cliff, that is.  Popcorn, people.

Arrrr, Here There Be Pirates

I'm not making a political jab here as much as giggling at the weird times politics and tech news meet:

Anthony Trinca, 61, is accused of selling versions of Microsoft Office, Windows, Adobe Photoshop, and Rosetta Stone language programs that were counterfeit, news site TG Daily reported today, one of several outlets to write about it. Trinca, president of the Grand Strand Tea Party, was arrested after someone to whom he allegedly sold software resold some of it and refused to give a refund when a buyer insisted it was pirated, the report said.

StupidiNews! Good Samaritan Edition

Dudley Flew-Right:
CALGARY - The distraught father of a five-year-old Calgary boy was able to be at his son’s bedside when he died, thanks to the city’s police chopper.
While the child’s mother was nearby when the tragedy unfolded, his father was still in Calgary, but thanks to a rare move by city police’s HAWCS helicopter he was given the chance to see him alive one last time, and say goodbye.

But since HAWCS was airborne and staff already doing patrols, the call was made to fly the father to Red Deer to cut travel time, said police spokesman Kevin Brookwell.
“I believe it was the right thing to do given the circumstances and the fact that we were already airborne and we had that resource available to us,” said Brookwell.

“What we did not want is a distraught father travelling northbound on Hwy. 2 at a high rate of speed, not really in the right mindset given the circumstances with the son. 

Would this work every time?  No.  This isn't just a heartwarming story, it's a reminder that sometimes making a judgment call isn't a commitment for every case hereafter.  The circumstances lined up and a good deed was done, and there is no trace of a promise that this would ever happen again.  I dread to think of what might happen here in the States.  My cynical side would anticipate a lawsuit the first time that courtesy wasn't extended.  

Cheap Shot:

A 29-year-old Good Samaritan is fighting for his life after being shot early today while he and his family were feeding a formerly homeless man in Oakland, Calif., according to news reports.
The unidentified man, known as "Brother John," was shot in the head by someone in a passing vehicle about 12:30 a.m. as he, his 35-year-old wife and daughters ages 3 and 7 were serving fish, fries and soda from their van, the Oakland Tribune reports. The family has been serving home-cooked meals to the poor and homeless in East Oakland for about a year.

Once in a while I encounter a stupidity so profound I am left speechless.  This is one of those times.  There's a special place in hell for people like the criminal who may have robbed the world of a good and generous man.  For no reason, no benefit at all.

Tattoos That Can Save Lives

I am diabetic, so I watch news for innovative ways to prevent, treat and monitor the disease.  As a geek who types a lot and a violinist who relies on fingertips, finger pricking causes constant pain and tenderness no matter how careful or creative I am.  Other methods aren't as accurate or reliable, so this remains the method most people use.  It sucks.

But there is an app for that.

Dr. Heather Clark, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Northeastern University, is leading the research on the sub-dermal sensors. She said she was reminded of the benefits of real-time, wearable health monitoring when she entered a marathon in Vermont: If they become mass-produced and affordable for the consumer market, wireless devices worn on the body could tell you exactly what medication you need whenever you need it.

Here’s how it works: a 100 nanometer-wide set of sensors go under the skin, like tattoo ink – as for the size, “You can spot it if you’re looking for it,” Clark says. The sensors are encased in an oily agent to ensure the whole contraption stays together.
Within the implant, certain nanoparticles will bind exclusively to specific blood contents, like sodium or glucose. Thanks to an additive that makes the particles charge neutral, the presence of a target triggers an ion release, which manifests as a florescence change. The process is detailed in an article published in the journal Integrative Biology. 

Right now the iPhone is the only device with the capability to read the light reflecting off the sensors, but if this becomes widespread that will surely change.  The concept of building this into a cell phone not only has medical potential but advances the notion that we will eventually have a single device for all everyday functions.  A digital butler that can call, monitor, report and document our lives and activities.  It isn't too much of stretch for your phone to tell you how much insulin to take, order refills as necessary, report information back to doctors.  This is also why we must be so careful to shape technology instead of the other way around.  It is why we must cover this information under protected information so it can't be viewed without permission or stolen without serious consequences.

It's still good news and a major move in the right direction.  Our fingertips are sensitive and rich with blood, which is what makes them ideal to monitor immediate changes in blood sugar.  It is also what makes it so painful and hard to do.  I've checked my sugar for years and I still flinch every time.  This is wonderful, and I hope it only opens more doors to improvement.

Giving Cops The Finger

Paul Yates from Intelligent Fingerprinting, a company spun out from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and colleagues, have developed a handheld device that police can use to detect breakdown products from drugs excreted through sweat pores in the fingertips.
The device applies gold nanoparticles coated with antibodies to a fingerprint. The antibodies stick to antigens on specific metabolites in the fingerprint. Fluorescent dyes attached to the antibodies will highlight the presence of any metabolites. The technique was first used to detect nicotine, but now works on a range of drugs, including cocaine, methadone and cannabis.
This has some positive applications.  If administered properly, it can prove that someone is not currently driving under the influence, which paves the way for identifying that and freeing up the drug test to deal with a person's current state.  This has been a major (and rightly so) point with anti-marijuana camps.  Right now if you fail a marijuana test you can be considered under the influence, which is ridiculous because the component they test for can remain in the body for up to six weeks.  It would add a risk component to casual drug users who are tempted to drive, and if the courts handle those cases correctly we could have a proper deterrent.

Of course, reality implies it will be used to coerce and intimidate, but a girl can hope.

The Return Of The Return Of The Maverick

After basically completely legitimizing the Tea Party with his selection of Sarah Palin as his VP and winning re-election in 2010 running as an anti-immigration right-wing ideologue, the old Sensible Village Centrist John McCain that the Village knows and loves is back as he throws the Tea Party monster he helped to create under the bus so fast it might land behind it.

The fiery, independent version of the Republican senator from Arizona took to the floor of the Senate Wednesday morning. Demanding “straight talk,” Mr. McCain accused conservatives of abandoning reason by opposing the House Republican leader’s plan to resolve the debt crisis.

Mr. McCain mocked Tea Party-allied Republicans in the House for believing — wrongly, he said — that President Obama and Democrats will get the blame for a default if Republicans refuse to increase the nation’s debt ceiling.

By that flawed logic, “Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced budget amendment and reform entitlements and the Tea Party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth,” he said, quoting a Wall Street Journal editorial.

“This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into G.O.P. nominees,” he jeered, referring to two losing Tea Party candidates for the Senate in 2010.

Mr. McCain’s comments recall the visage of the senator prior to the 2008 presidential campaign against President Obama, when Mr. McCain eventually abandoned his “straight talk” mantra and ran as a more conventional conservative. And during Mr. McCain’s reelection campaign in 2010, he downplayed the “maverick” label that he had long proudly worn in the Senate.

But on Wednesday morning, it looked like the maverick had returned.

The question is now of course is did John McCain turn on the Tea Party because he anticipated the political expediency to the Village of doing so, or did McCain's 180 itself now create the attitude that it's fashionable to bash the Tea Party in the Village press?

The Straight Talk express can corner like it's on rails, people.  And the Village loves him for it.  They'll deny even more than McCain does that they ever supported the wacko wing of the GOP.

Until they need to go after President Obama again.

Fighting Control Freaks

With the GOP having kidnapped the nation, Democrats are at least trying to get something useful done in the meantime, this time re-introducing legislation that would prevent pharmacists from refusing to sell contraceptives on religious grounds:  the Access To Birth Control Act.

Sen Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) Tuesday introduced the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act in the House and Senate, a week after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report recommending free contraceptives to all women.

"This legislation would prevent a pharmacy from interfering in the personal medical decisions made by a patient and her doctor," Lautenberg said in a press advisory Tuesday. "By guaranteeing access to birth control, we can ensure that women are never denied the right to make responsible decisions about their reproductive health."

"This recommendation from the IOM marks an important first step toward near-universal contraceptive coverage in America, but if women are denied the actual contraceptives when they go to their pharmacist, having no-cost contraceptives is rendered meaningless," Maloney announced as she introduced the bill.

"The ABC Act would make it illegal for a pharmacist to refuse to return a birth control prescription or for a pharmacist to intimidate, threaten or harass customers or intentionally breach or threaten to breach medical confidentiality."

Hey social conservatives, want to prevent unwanted pregnancies that may lead to women seeking abortions?  Want to help women who don't want to have additional children accomplish this?  Here you go.  This legislation's for you.

This is something every social conservative should be lining up to co-sponsor.  Of course, since Republicans despise the idea of women having sex for something other than procreation, they'll do everything they can to block it, but it's not like hypocrisy on women's issues is anything new for them.

The Sanctity Of Life

I'm always gobsmacked by how people who oppose abortion do so quoting the "sanctity of life" and then they think it's okay to lob Molotov cocktails at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Holly Morgan, director of media relations and communications for Planned Parenthood in Dallas, said their McKinney health center located on Eldorado Parkway was "attacked" between 10 and 11 p.m. Tuesday with an incendiary device.

The person or persons involved in the attack threw a Molotov cocktail, consisting of diesel fuel in a glass bottle with a lit rag, at the building. Morgan said the device did not penetrate the front of the clinic but did cause some serious damage.

"It didn't penetrate the health center office and none of the staff or patients were there, which is great," Morgan said. "It scorched the outside of the door and I believe there was a little scorching to the retail locations on either side of it."

McKinney police officials have taken some of the remains of the device as evidence and cleaned up the facility, so they could remain open the following morning.

Just another day on the job for clinic workers, right?  It was after hours so it was okay, of course.  The again "It was night time, there shouldn't have been anyone there" was the excuse Klansmen in the South gave when they were firebombing black churches, too.

It's 2011, people.  This crap is getting old.


I'll Take WTH For $200

SAN FRANCISCO – "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek says he snapped his Achilles tendon while running after a burglar who had stolen cash, a bracelet and other items from his San Francisco hotel room.
The 71-year-old Trebek tells KGO-TV that he also injured his other leg while falling down during the chase early Wednesday. He was on crutches later Wednesday when he hosted the National Geographic World Championship at Google headquarters in Mountain View.

Awesome.  Just freaking awesome. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Last Call

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is closing as the Pentagon consolidates operations to save money.

The complex in northwest Washington near the Maryland border shifts most of its operations in August and finally shuts its doors on September 15 as a part of a consolidation with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The new facility will be called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will have campuses in Bethesda and Fort Belvoir, Va.

"The ceremony is not a closing, but a transition of the organization to the next iteration of what we call 'Borden's Dream,' so named after the Army Doctor who had the vision to create the first Walter Reed General Hospital," Col. Norvell Coots, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, said in a statement.

"But for the people who make Walter Reed the magical place that it is, this will be an emotional closure as we shut down this campus after more than 102 years of service to the nation," Coots said.

More than 1,000 people attended the "casing of the colors" ceremony where the flag of the unit was taken down and put into a protective covering, marking the unit's inactivation, according a spokesman. 

With the center a century old, it's probably past time for this to have happened.  Ironically, medical advances brought about by research and care of wounded veterans at places like Walter Reed has made it more necessary to house and treat soldiers with brain and spine injuries rather than to lose them to the ravages of combat.

And these days, our men and women in uniform are certainly seeing a lot of combat.  More soldiers are surviving the kind of deadly wounds from IEDs and bombs that even ten years ago would have killed them, but the downside is these wounded warriors need long-term care and assistance.  The Army and Marine Corps are especially having difficulties adjusting financially to this new reality, hence the closing of Walter Reed in order to consolidate operations with the NNMC in Bethesda.

Of course the primary driver of all this has been our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  With six weeks to go until the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we're still losing troops in both countries and many more are being critically injured.

They deserve to be brought home.

We Don't Need No Water...

...let this muthafracker burn, says the House GOP.

BOEHNER: Well, first they want more. And my goodness, I want more too. And secondly, a lot of them believe that if we get passed August the second and we have enough chaos, we could force the Senate and the White House to accept a balanced budget amendment. I’m not sure that that — I don’t think that that strategy works. Because I think the closer we get to August the second, frankly, the less leverage we have vis a vis our colleagues in the Senate and the White House.

Want to know why Obama's doing what he's doing?  Because he's dealing with fever-bright fanatics who truly believe that if we hit The Big Reset Button and destroy the economy, that everything will be AWESOME.  John Cole:

They think they can burn the entire system down and out of the ashes will form Conservatopia. They really do think of themselves as the vanguard of the Galtitariat. The folks sitting on the sideline keeping their powder dry, or the folks saying “They’re just negotiating” simply do not get it. We’re dealing with maniacs and true believers. When you look in Michelle Bachmann’s eyes, you’re not just seeing crazy, you’re seeing the glassy eyed stare of a modern day Manson family. Economic suicide bombers is a better analogy than most people realize.

And they will pull the trigger.

Middle-Class Blues For Black And Brown Americans

Filling in for Rachel Maddow this week, Melissa Harris-Perry uses her professorial skills to explain just what has gone wrong for the American Dream for so many minorities.

As people of color become a proportionally bigger part of the American population, our national coffers will rely on them even more. We cannot pay off the national debt if households cannot pay off their personal debt, and if they are in debt, then you can't cut enough to ever make it possible to fix our government's debt problems, and particularly not if you refuse to tax that one group whose wealth is still tick, tick, ticking up.

Professor Harris-Perry goes straight after the "we must live within our means" idiocy by pointing out that families don't "live within their means", but regularly take out mortgage loans, equity loans, car loans, and student loans all the time in order to improve their own situation or to cover emergencies that come up...or to cover income from a lost job.

What's more, for minority households, the access to credit is much more limited because wealth begets more wealth.  This is why when Republicans (and some Democrats) say the most important thing is cutting spending, you have to respond with "no, it's not."

Take Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge with this chart for example.

While everyone and their grandmother is foaming at the mouth how both republicans and democrats hiked the debt ceiling for umpteen times over the past x years, the truth is that never before has the ratio of the proposed debt ceiling to the tax receipt ratio been as high as it is now. At nearly 6 times, this means that the top line (forget bottom line) cash inflows into the Treasury are 6 times lower than the current debt ceiling. And following the upcoming $2.5 trillion this number will surge to almost 8 times. So please ignore the next "pundit" who is complaining about the hypocrisy of not agreeing to an outright debt ceiling hike this time around - as usual they have no idea what they are talking about.

God forbid we try to lower that ratio by allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to expire on the wealthy. But no, the only option it seems is the cut spending on the poorest Americans in order to keep them poor, and then blame them for not earning enough.
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