Friday, September 30, 2011

Last Call

I've brought up the issues of voting on rights and the tyranny of the the majority before, but it's good to see people in the media bring it up and why it's ridiculous.  Rachel Maddow uses my home state of North Carolina to explain:

When rights are subject to vote, they are not rights, they are whims.

The War On Privacy - Sigh

A Justice Department document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that cellphone companies keep customers' information for several years, raising concerns about possible tracking, the National Journal reports.

Retention periods vary for subscriber data, towers used and text-message contents, but all major carriers keep tower information for as long as two years, the NJ writes. See its summaries of the Big 4 carriers.

The document release is part of a campaign to get local law enforcement agencies to reveal when, why and how they are using location data to track Americans. The ACLU says 35 affiliates have filed more than 380 requests in 32 states.

If they are going to snoop and record, that is detestable. If they are going to keep those records without our permission, it is disgusting. But they damn well owe us a straightforward understanding of what they are keeping, how long they are keeping it, and how they plan to use it.

If I broke into someone's house and took their personal data without permission I'd be in jail. How is it that an entire industry violates our rights and laugh in our face at our outrage? Where the hell is the FCC when we need them? You can't drop an F-bomb during prime time, but our information can be hoarded without explanation?

What a load.

Profiles In Courage: Pass The Damn Bill Edition

I have said this before and I'll say it again:  The problem with passing progressive legislation is Congress, not the White House.  Direct your energies there, please.  Sen. Dick Durbin:

Durbin added that the president’s bill would need bipartisan support because there are senators both on the left and the right opposed to aspects of it.

The oil-producing-state senators don’t like eliminating or reducing the subsidy for oil companies, Durbin said. There are some senators who are up for election who say I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for election, even on the wealthiest people. So, we’re not gonna have 100 percent of Democratic senators. That’s why it needs to be bipartisan and I hope we can find some Republicans who will join us to make it happen.

Durbin's giving you a free hint, folks.  Dem Senators up for re-election who aren't going to vote for the American Jobs Act because they're more worried about the rich than they are the middle class in their states.  Betting that list includes Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Joe F'ckin Lieberman and Bill Nelson at the minimum.

Time to contact your Senators, folks. United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.  Say hi.

The Maine Point About Voting

I will say this again:  if you recognize no other difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, you need to recognize that the Republicans want as few people to have the right to vote as possible, while the Democrats want as many people to have the right to vote as possible.  Case in point?  GOP voter intimidation in Maine of college students.

The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.

The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.

In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.” 

Only one problem: that's complete crap.  The Supreme Court clearly spelled out three decades ago that college students have the right to register to vote in the state they go to college in.  These students are within the law and are excited to vote in their first Presidential election.  But the Maine GOP doesn't want them to do so and wants to scare them into not voting.

ThinkProgress spoke with a few of the letter recipients. Casey O’Malley, a senior at University of Maine Farmington, said her family has been worried about potential legal consequences because of this letter. She hasn’t decided whether to cancel her registration or not, but her family has been “pretty insistent” that she do so in order to be on the safe side. Another recipient, who wished to remain anonymous, said that students she knew were “beyond scared and freaked out.” One was “so shaken up” because she was scared the letter meant she was going to get sued.

America, unfortunately, has a long history of this kind of behavior.  The right to vote is arguably the single most important right one has in our representative democracy.  One party continues to consistently work to get into power and then works to limit that right only to select few.  That alone should disturb everyone, no matter what your political views are.

Why should you vote?  Because Republicans don't think you'll miss it when your ability to do so is gone.

OnStar: Back On The Right Path

Bowing to public pressure, OnStar said Tuesday the Detroit navigation-and-emergency company would not monitor vehicles after customers cancel service.

The decision to change course comes a day after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. Schumer decried the surveillance as the most “brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) also said OnStar’s surveillance was a “privacy breach.”

To the outrage of subscribers, OnStar last week began e-mailing customers about an update to its privacy policy. Among other things, it said OnStar would turn off the two-way communication between a former customer and the service upon request — though OnStar would continue to track former customers who simply cancel their account.

Thank goodness for a quick reaction. So far the big battles have gone in our favor. I hate to be cynical, but I am frightened for the time the chips don't fall the right way. For now, we're safe thanks to a couple of fellows who reacted quickly to fix this.

The moment we lapse, rest assured our data will be harvested and sold at every opportunity.

Pre-Occupied With The Outcome

A lot of news being made in the last few days about Occupy Wall Street, the protests are in their second week and beginning to draw the backing of labor and union groups.

Labor unions and liberal activist groups plan to throw their weight behind the "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City that has now lasted 13 straight days, according to Crain's New York.

A diverse coalition of people have pledged to occupy Wall Street until something is done about corporate greed and the financial system's undemocratic influence on the U.S. government.

The protesters have been camped out in New York’s old Liberty Plaza, now called Zuccotti Park, since September 17.

Among unions, the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United and Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 have said they will participate in the protest next Wednesday.

The Working Families Party,, Make the Road New York, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Alliance for Quality Education, Community Voices Heard, United New York and Strong Economy For All also plan to support the demonstration.

"It's a responsibility for the progressive organizations in town to show their support and connect Occupy Wall Street to some of the struggles that are real in the city today," Jon Kest, executive director of New York Communities for Change told Crain's New York. "They're speaking about issues we're trying to speak about."

I admit, I didn't have much hope for the movement in the first week, it seemed laughably disorganized.  But then the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times did the movement a huge favor by dismissing the protests with some sloppy "dirty effing hippies" journalism, and that got them noticed by the internet.  That, in turn, got them noticed by liberal activist groups and labor unions as the protests move into week number three.

Meanwhile, similar, smaller Occupy protests are showing up across the country, even here in Kentucky.

The situation started out ugly, but it's picking up momentum as well as supporters. Most of all, it's picking up organized supporters with intelligent demands and the ability to leverage the press.  We'll see how far this goes.

Playing A Game Of Chinese Checking

A lot of folks on Wall Street got burned by Chinese stock darling Sino-Forest Corporation's collapse and resignation of the the company's CEO amid allegations of securities fraud and commodity speculation: the Chinese timber company had managed to all but corner China's insatiable market for building materials...without actually having the hard numbers of hardwood.  Oops.  It was a nasty shell game, and the implosion last month was impressive.

Now the Department of Justice is looking into other Chinese companies on the NYSE and asking a lot of questions.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating accounting irregularities at Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges, said an official with the Securities and Exchange Commission, suggesting criminal charges may be brought in addition to civil proceedings.

"There are parts of the Justice Department that are actively engaged in this area," Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC, said in an interview on Tuesday.

He told Reuters that a number of federal prosecutors around the United States were taking part in the investigation, but he declined to name them.

Involvement of U.S. attorneys general in various locations adds investigative firepower to the SEC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which are also probing the accounting methods of certain U.S.-listed Chinese companies.

"I think that you will see greater (Department of Justice) involvement as time goes on," Khuzami said when asked if criminal charges would be filed in the investigation.

A former federal prosecutor, he declined to elaborate on which Chinese companies or auditors were being scrutinized by the Justice Department.

The question?  How many more Sino-Forest landmines are hiding in the NYSE right now?  Could be nasty if this investigation steps on one.  Stay tuned, there's major implications this one, including the notion that China itself is engaging in commodity speculation in order to make money off of everyone else in the market.

Hey, it worked for Wall Street.

Shutdown Countdown: Here We Go Again, Part 6

Republicans are back to wanting to slash funding for Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act, and heating assistance to the poor in the 2012 budget, and Democrats are responding with "no, you will not." Looks like the next shutdown fight is on over the first of the 2012 budget measures.

House Republicans are attaching controversial cuts and policy measures to legislation required to run the biggest domestic department in the federal government, and if they don't back off there will likely be, you guessed it, another government shutdown fight.

Already, Democrats in both chambers are saying a draft of the House's Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill is dead on arrival, because it contains deep cuts to heating assistance for the poor, requires the repeal of a major provision of the health care law that will help provide assistance for disabled people, halts implementation of the entire law until the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of its individual insurance mandate, and slashes Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. Just for starters.

Republicans have already reneged on the deal worked out during the debt ceiling battle, so nobody should be surprised by this stupidity. Republicans don't very concerned that the public will blame them for the multiple shutdown fights, either. All they have to do is drain the Democrats strength and keep them from being to accomplish anything in Congress and they win.  The next shutdown fight is now on, and it will be followed by a continuous number of them until the GOP is removed from a position of power.

Republicans are counting on Dems not to care in 2012.  So far the plan is working perfectly.  You have the power to make a difference.  Use it.

Unless you think permanent shutdown battles is any way to run a government.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last Call

And because Dick Morris has so much credibility when it comes to his "Democratic Party" connections, he's now selling the pipe dream that President Obama won't run in 2012 to Matt Drudge and company.

“I asked a top Democratic strategist the other day and he thought that it was possible that, in January, Harry Reid comes to Obama and says, ‘Look you cost us control of the House last year, you’re going to cost us control of the Senate this year. For the good of the party you have to step aside’” said Morris.

“And, then, (Obama) pulls a Lyndon Johnson, he says ‘I’m fighting to solve the recession, and problem is because of partisanship and my re-election people reject everything I say because of partisanship, so I’m going to not run for president and focus my full time attention on solving this recession’ and then go out popular,” Morris added. 

And of course who would run in President Obama's place?  Well, Morris apparently doesn't have an answer to that, but he could run again in 2016 after...umm...somebody steps in to save the country in 2012.  The article assigns a "very high likelihood of a defeat in the 2012 elections" to the President as well, so of course Dick Morris is somebody we should listen to.

It's like the right wing noise machine is rewarding "even the liberal Dick Morris" for the sole purpose of trying to destroy President Obama or something.  But hey, it appeared on Drudge, so it must be true.  Sirens and all.

Papers, Please In Alabama

Last night a federal judge refused to block some of the most controversial provisions of Alabama's "toughest in the nation" anti-immigration law and today those provisions take effect.

Beginning Thursday, authorities can question people suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them without bond, and officials can check the immigration status of students in public schools, Gov. Robert Bentley said.

Those two key aspects of Alabama's new law were upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday.

The governor said parts of the law take effect immediately.

"Today Judge Blackburn upheld the majority of our law," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a brief statement he delivered outside the State Capitol in Montgomery, The New York Times reported. "With those parts that were upheld, we have the strongest immigration law in the country."

There is some good news, but only because the most obscene and the most patently ridiculous parts of Alabama's law were blocked:

  • Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work.
  • Make it a crime to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant.
  • Allow discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal immigrants.
  • Forbid businesses from taking tax deductions for wages paid to workers who are in the country illegally.
  • Bar illegal immigrants from attending public colleges.
  • Bar drivers from stopping along a road to hire temporary workers.
  • Make federal verification the only way in court to determine if someone is here legally.

So that's something, but all that means is that the Overton Window of immigrant hate has been slid to the right some more.  The provisions for police and public schools to have to check immigration status which were blocked in other states are now allowed in Alabama and as of right now are being enforced.  Any private contract or public transaction with an undocumented immigrant in Alabama is now null and void, meaning the state is free to deny any service to them, or that contracts like rental leases are moot.

Alabama's law is headed for SCOTUS for sure, but the anger against Latinos and other minorities in the US continues to be leveraged by the GOP into political power in red states.

Scalia Stupidity Leak #4891

In a speech at the historically Catholic Duquesne University School of Law, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia urged the university not to stray from a religious identity hostile to gay and lesbian students:

“Our educational establishment these days, while so tolerant of and even insistent upon diversity in all other aspects of life seems bent on eliminating diversity of moral judgment — particularly moral judgment based on religious views,” Scalia said.
What, but it's okay for it to go the other way?  Damn those diversity hounds for wanting to show the value of every single person, not just the holy ones.  Damn him for being so shortsighted and stubborn.

As examples, he cited attempts to sue a religious university in Washington, D.C., for offering only same-sex dorms and other attempts by a law school association to bar schools that discriminate against homosexuals.
“I hope this place will not yield — as some Catholic institutions have — to this politically correct insistence upon suppression of moral judgment, to this distorted view of what diversity in America means,” Scalia said.
It isn't suppression of moral judgment to treat people fairly.  This was a speech at a school of law.  I'm disgusted and sad that he wasn't booed off the stage.  People are allowed to worship as they please, and think whatever they like.  But when it comes to how they truly act, and the behaviors they promote, discrimination is wrong every time.   Distorted view of diversity?  Because of stupidity like this, real diversity cannot exist!

Here's one from me to Scalia: shut your pie hole, you rotten old fart.  You are a disgrace to your station, and you always have been.  I look forward to the day you are gone, and I cannot wait for the day your seat is given to someone with a brain and a heart.  Your stench will eventually fade.  When it does, we'll still be here to clean up your mess.

When All Other Possibilities Are Eliminated...Part 3

If you still needed incontrovertible proof of my theory that it is impossible for some white progressives to even entertain the theory of a conversation on race with persons of color, I give you a big ol' check mark in the "Zandar may have a point" column:  Salon's Gene Lyons (via ABLC):

See, nobody ever criticized Bill Clinton, another centrist Democrat who faced a hostile Republican congress. Indeed, he was “enthusiastically re-elected” in 1996. Therefore, “[t]he 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.”

The professor actually wrote that. See, certain academics are prone to an odd fundamentalism of the subject of race. Because President Obama is black, under the stern gaze of professor Harris-Perry, nothing else about him matters. Not killing Osama bin Laden, not 9 percent unemployment, only blackness.

Furthermore, unless you’re black, you can’t possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada. This unfortunate obsession increasingly resembles a photo negative of KKK racial thought. It’s useful for intimidating tenure committees staffed by Ph.D.s trained to find racist symbols in the passing clouds. Otherwise, Harris-Perry’s becoming a left-wing Michele Bachmann, an attractive woman seeking fame and fortune by saying silly things on cable TV.

The sheer political stupidity of turning Obama’s reelection into a racial referendum cannot be overstated. It would be an open confession of weakness. Whatever its shortcomings, this White House is too smart to go there. Harris-Perry will have to fight this lonely battle on her own. Voters can’t be shamed or intimidated into supporting this president or any other. They can only be persuaded.

I'm actually not shocked by this, as a matter of fact this is exactly the kind of response I expected to Professor Harris-Perry's article.  The good doctor has a PhD. in political science from Duke.  She has taught African-American studies at Princeton and currently teaches political science at Tulane.  She is an accomplished author, commentator, activist, and is founding director of the Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South.  When she voices an opinion on race and politics in the United States, any human being would do well to at least consider it based on her curriculum vitae alone.

Gene Lyons on the other hand wrote a book about how people were mean to Bill Clinton.  This makes him expert enough to qualify dismissing Dr. Harris-Perry as a "fool."

Both ABL and Joy Ann Reid have written pieces that obliterate Lyons, and they both are far more gifted writers on this subject than I'll ever be, but the issue of privilege in politics has always been one that those who have it never, ever wish to discuss.

This is what happens when you try, apparently.  It needs to be resolved and quickly, too.  We have a country to save from the Republicans.

Catwoman Rebooted: Meow

There seems to be some discussion about how Anne Hathaway looks in the Catwoman suit for the upcoming Batman movie.  Some folks think she looks silly.

I respectfully disagree.  Hathaway looks HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT.  I thought nobody would ever top Michelle Pfeiffer (who took the torch from Eartha Kitt), but we have a contender.  So far all we've seen are stills, but if she walks as good as she looks, you'll find no complaints from me.

Seriously.  You tell me where that goes wrong.  For a broad who is supposed to move gracefully in tight leather and wear cat ears, this is as good as it gets.  No offense to Eartha or Michelle.

One more of these, and I'll have to make a "daaaaaaamn" tag.  Readers: do you like it or not?

Cain Unable, Part 3

Herman Cain is going to need a bigger shovel for this hole he's in.

Look, I know Republicans have a pretty terrible opinion of African-American voters, but it's just another thing entirely to see African-American Republicans with terrible opinions of African-American voters.

The one African-American running for the GOP presidential nomination said Wednesday the black community was 'brainwashed' for traditionally siding with liberal politicians.

"African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view," Cain said on CNN's "The Situation Room" in an interview airing Wednesday between 5-7 p.m. ET. "I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it's just brainwashing and people not being open minded, pure and simple."

Ho boy.  Yeah, see...some free political campaign advice there, Herman.  When you're trying to convince a voting bloc to back you, it's best not to insult them as "brain-washed" and "not open minded".  In fact, I believe that's the chief complaint I hear from the Tea Party about how liberals supposedly feel about them.  Given this evidence, I'm going to say that particular complaint is projection, plain and simple.

Cain went on to explain that his interactions with African Americans led him to be optimistic about his own chances with the demographic. 
"This whole notion that all African-Americans are not going to vote for Obama is not necessarily true," Cain said.

He continued, "I believe a third [of African-Americans] would vote for me, based on my own anecdotal feedback. Not vote for me because I'm black but because of my policies."

So now African-American voters have to prove they're not racist bigots at the ballot box by voting for the party accusing them of being racist bigots at the ballot box.  In the immortal words of Dr. Peter Venkman, "That was your whole plan, huh?"  Wow.

Look, I understand the concept that calling the Tea Party names and insulting voters in 2010 didn't exactly make them want to vote for the Dems last year.  But it's kind of odd to see Herman Cain, a successful, intelligent African-American, to base his entire campaign off the notion that black voters are dumber than a boxcar-sized block of tofu, and the only possible reason they could vote for Democrats is that we're too stupid to know any better because we just haven't looked at how great Republican policies are for us.

Well, let's see, African-American unemployment was over 20% under Reagan, fell, shot up to 15% under Bush 41, dropped steadily under Clinton, shot back up again after Bush's financial crisis to 15% again, (after the banks collapsed the economy based on selling crappy subprime loans to minority homeowners.)  Yeah, Republican policies really, really were great for black people.  Let's have more of those.

Also, the Republicans making assumptions that we're all welfare-taking affirmative action sad sacks that are just parasites on the awesome white people's country.  Cause our ancestors originally came here for the free room and board and quaint cuisine.  Yeesh.

I ask if they think we're really this stupid, but the answer is so obvious it's depressing.

We're Moving It Up To January

Florida is sick of wimpy states like New Hampshire and Iowa getting all the attention.  Sunshine State Republicans want the folks running for the White House to suck up to them as the swing state that's most important to deciding the Presidency, and they're playing hardball.  Expect them to move the state's 2012 primary to January 31 this Friday, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Florida had been looking at an early March date; after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. But other states have suggested that they'll have earlier contests, and Florida lawmakers say they want to ensure that the nation’s largest swing state has a significant say in choosing the Republican presidential nominee. By scheduling a primary that early, Florida could be penalized by the Republican National Committee, which might reduce the number of delegates the state can send to the national convention.

If Florida moves its date, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would be expected to move up to earlier in January. The Iowa caucuses are now tentatively scheduled for Feb. 6, New Hampshire’s primary for Feb. 14, Nevada’s caucuses for Feb. 18 and South Carolina’s primary for Feb. 28.

All states must submit dates to the RNC by Saturday; Georgia is scheduled to announce a date Thursday.

If Florida moves up, observers suggest, the Iowa caucus — the nation's first nomination voting, by tradition — would be as soon as Jan. 5, followed by New Hampshire five to eight days later. Arizona already has said it will flout the RNC and move its primary to Feb. 28.

In other words if Florida jumps the starter's pistol this week, it's a mad dash to see who will be first in the nation, and we could see primaries just after New Year's Day.  Florida would certainly be the biggest prize of the January primaries.  The newspapers and networks certainly aren't going to complain about an earlier start to the horserace season, meaning the real primary coverage will begin, well, now instead of after the first of the year.

Like it or not if the first primaries are just after January 1, then we're coming up on only three months until that happens.  Given the complete disarray of the GOP field right now, I'm betting they are wishing Florida would give it a rest.

Personhood Non Grata

As I've said before, Mississippi voters will be taking on the most restrictive anti-abortion measure in the country in just a manner of weeks.  If the "personhood amendment" to the state constitution ballot issue passes, not only will it outlaw abortion in the state, but it will outlaw forms of contraception as well.  MoJo's Tim Murphy reports the man responsible for the measure is Les Riley:

But for all the momentum it has gained, the amendment is in large part the handiwork of one lesser known figure, an activist named Les Riley. A tractor salesman, former candidate for agriculture commissioner, and chair of the state Constitution Party, Riley is steeped in fringe politics. He founded the group Personhood Mississippi, drafted the amendment's language, started the signature drive that got it on the ballot, and promoted it statewide this spring with an inflammatory campaign called the "Conceived in Rape Tour."

The idea behind the amendment is simple: If by law life begins at fertilization, then abortion (and human cloning) would become legally impossible. In an interview with the AFA this summer, Riley asserted that his amendment would have "international implications" and could become "the biggest news in the pro-life movement in 20 years." If all goes as planned, it will launch a court challenge that will end with Roe v. Wade itself being overturned.

And that's just the beginning of Riley's plan to reshape America.

As radical and grandiose as that may sound, it fits with fringe views from Riley's past. A neo-secessionist, Riley once supported an effort to form an independent theocratic republic in South Carolina, and he belonged to an organization—the League of the South—dedicated to forming a "free Southern Republic" built on biblical law.

Go figure, the guy that wants to save America hates it enough to want to leave it.   Here's the best part of this "smaller, less intrusive, less regulatory government" pioneer's plan:

Moreover, because the language of the amendment is so broad, it could force state agencies to revisit and revise any regulation that includes the word "person," according to Jordan Goldberg, an attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. It would impact regulations on "the number of people who could ride a bus and the number of people who would be permitted to ride in a car," she says, or any statute that involves the collection of census data, such as redistricting. "It sounds absurd, but frankly so is this proposal," she says.

And yet as absurd as it is, the law is expected to pass.  If it doesn't, it will simply be proposed next year in a number of other states (and will probably be done so anyway.)   Less regs for food safety, more regs for your uterus.  Vote GOP.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Last Call

You know that little domestic terrorist problem we continue to have since the nutjobs are coming out of the woodwork these days?  Still an issue, still luckily law enforcement is up to the task.

Federal authorities say a Michigan man bought and hid more than 4,000 pounds of explosives with enough potential firepower to equal the Oklahoma City bombing and told an undercover informant that “when the government takes over, we will be mercenaries.”

John Francis Lechner, 64, was arrested last week on a charge of possessing explosives while facing other charges and ordered held following a U.S. District Court hearing Monday. His attorney said Lechner, a builder and farmer from Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula, obtained the materials years ago for construction projects.

“He’s not a terrorist, he’s not a mercenary, he’s not some freedom fighter,” defense attorney Charles Malette told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “He intended no type of violence, pro- or anti-government. The man is not like that.”

Prosecutors and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not accuse Lechner of plotting to detonate the mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. Assistant U.S. Attorney Maarten Vermaat told the AP he had “no idea” what Lechner planned to do with the materials.

You know, asking the guy what he plans to do with 2 tons of explosives is a fair question for the state to ask.  He deserves his day in court.  Having said that, he's expecting the government to "take over", and he expects to have been able to fight back with said 2 tons of things that go boom.

Seems like yeah, there's probably a case here.

Not Exactly A Laughing Matter

Yeah, well, if NC Dem Gov. Bev Perdue wasn't in trouble before back in my home state, she is after this massive gaffe speaking at the Rotary Club in Cary, NC yesterday.

"You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It's a little bit more contentious now but it's not impossible to try to do what's right in this state. You want people who don't worry about the next election."

No, see, even in the full context, that's a terrible thing to say, and something that's going to be used against her for pretty much the rest of her political career.  The folks on the right are having a complete meltdown over this (no surprise there) but that's not even the kind of thing you want to say as a grim joke or hyperbole as an elected politician.

Considering Republicans are trying to do everything they can to make elections optional for most of America anyway, it only gives the GOP cover to continue with their "voter ID" nonsense laws designed to disenfranchise traditional Democratic voters right on out of the electoral process.  Nice to know that for the rest of this election cycle any serious inquiry into red state Voter ID laws will be met with cries of "BEV PERDUE IS A FASCIST".

Stupid, stupid, stupid.  And as the title of the blog says, I'm against that particular thing.

Bucking The System

The House GOP wants to get rid of the paper dollar and switch to the dollar coin, but both Massachusetts Senators, Republican Scott Brown and Democrat John Kerry, would rather have the greenback back.

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and two other House Republicans — including supercommittee co-chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) — introduced legislation last week aimed at retiring the paper dollar. Schweikert said his bill would save $184 million a year and $5.5 billion over 30 years by transitioning to a dollar coin in four years, or as soon as $600 million worth of dollar coins are in circulation.

Schweikert said three billion paper dollars are shredded every year, and the constant need to destroy these dollars and create new ones is a cost the government can no longer bear. He said metal coins would last longer and therefore save money.

"At a time when we are staring down a record-breaking $1.3 trillion deficit, any commonsense measure that cuts billions needs to be given serious consideration," he said of his Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings (COINS) Act. "That is exactly what the COINS Act will do and why I am introducing it."

But Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a competing bill over the weekend, the Currency Efficiency Act. That bill is aimed at protecting the paper dollar from what the senators call a "massive overproduction" of the "unpopular one dollar coin."

"The one dollar coin is misleading because it costs taxpayers so much more," Brown said. "In fact, we have over $1 billion worth of extra one dollar coins sitting idle in vaults and that's set to double over the next several years."

On one hand, the company that makes dollar paper for the US mint is in Dalton, Massachusetts, Crane & Co., the nation's first paper manufacturer dating back from the days of Paul Revere, so there's a definite reason why both Bay State Senators are defending the paper buck.  On the other hand, the dollar coin is very, very popular with vending machine manufacturers...and Texas and Arizona account for over 100 of the country's nearly 800 such manufacturers.  No surprise there, either.  The House bill is supported by the vending machine lobbyist group, the Dollar Coin Alliance, its honorary chairman is former Arizona GOP Congressman Jim Kolbe.

And let's not forget the reason why there's a billion plus dollars in dollar coins sitting around US Mint warehouses is that 75% of Americans prefer the paper dollar because the dollar coin legislation in the late 90's was put forth by, you guessed it, Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe and the same groups promised us that the dollar coin would be wildly popular.  It wasn't.

Now Republicans want to fix the issue and change the currency of the country itself to make vending machine makers happy, not to mention copper mines and smelters.  Yes, there are environmental benefits to the dollar coin, but there are drawbacks as well.

Any time I see House Republicans pushing environmental benefits of something, I wonder what the catch is and why it hasn't been done already, and I'm thinking it has everything to do with the companies who want to make a mint off minting these coins.  I don't mind releasing the coins we already have into circulation, but getting rid of the paper buck seems like a bad way to force people to use something they don't want to use.

Hey wait a minute, I thought Republicans were against that sort of thing, after all.

[UPDATE] Stan Collender at CG&G makes some good points as to why the COINS Act is nothing more than the GOP shifting corporate welfare dollars to their constituencies.

StupidiChat Has Arrived!

Those who visit the page may have seen earlier today that there is now a StupidiChat link on the left side of the page.  We have big plans for this, but for the time  being we will start off slowly.

For now, Z and I will be spending some random time in the room for wanderers to come in and say hi.  We will also use the room and post chat times for important events, both political and otherwise, so we can all talk live.  Some transcripts may even find their way into the posts, because we know our readers have some great ideas.

Sometime in the next week or so, we will release a few regular times that you can always count on us to be in the chat room, so you can come say hi or chat us up about whatever is on your mind.  Before we set those dates, we want to make sure they are sustainable, so expect those to roll out in very shortly.

Woman Will Be Lashed For Driving

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for breaking the country's ban on female drivers.

The woman, identified only as Shema, was found guilty of driving in Jeddah in July.

Women2drive, which campaigns for women to be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, says she has already lodged an appeal.

The sentence comes two days after the Saudi leader King Abdullah announced women would be allowed to vote for the first time in 2015.

It has been established that the King's decree allowing women to vote is a hollow joke.  It isn't bound by law so it can be repealed at any time, and the ability to vote is a farce in a country where underground deals determine who is in charge.  Elections are for show, so giving women that right is an insult when they are not able to walk or drive without an escort.  It's amazing to me that in our progressive time, women are still treated so badly in other places.  Again, we see reports of women being treated as slaves or property, forced through life with no choices or hope of change.  Women are forced to live a life of servitude, while their husbands answer to nobody for how they treat another human being.

This must be stopped.  Freedom to walk or drive is about as basic as it gets.  What does it matter if they can vote, if they must have a male relative drive them down there?  What good is it to be born in a world where you can never show your face or drive without an escort?

This will stain my entire day.  My heart goes out to that poor woman, ten lashes will be agonizing, and the scars will haunt her forever.

Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead

At the outstanding Ezra Klein's Wonkblog, Sarah Kliff makes the case as to why the Obama administration wants SCOTUS to rule on the Affordable Care Act ASAP.

The Justice Department said Monday night it would not ask a federal appeals court in Atlanta to review its ruling against the Affordable Care Act last month. That decision, from a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, found the mandated purchase of insurance to be unconstitutional.

If the Obama administration had asked the lower court to re-hear the case, with all 11 judges weighing in, the extra steps could have delayed a Supreme Court decision until 2013. Now, a Supreme Court case looks very likely to come by next summer, right in the thick of the 2012 presidential election.

The conventional wisdom has always been that, for the White House, a longer timeline on health reform’s legal challenges is better: it gives the law more time to be implemented and benefits to kick in. So why did it choose the faster route to the Supreme Court this time? There are at least three reasons that could make a 2012 Supreme Court decision a more compelling one for the White House:

And they are in order:

  1. The Obama administration will definitely handle the case.
  2. The review might not have been granted— or gone against the administration.
  3. The move shows confidence.

I agree with Kliff on all three of these, and it's a smart move.  The right fully expected the President to punt on this until 2013 because they are convinced that 2010's losses were in part due to the passage of the law in the first place.  Having the court rule on it now they figure means the President is handing the GOP a grenade to toss right in his face for the last several months of the 2012 campaign.

But let's be honest: the GOP was going to do everything they can to mobilize their voters on the "Obamacare" issue anyway by attacking the President, so there was no advantage in delaying the ruling until after the election anyway. 

Smart move, and I don't see how the administration had much choice anyway.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

What Morgan Freeman said:

What FOX News heard:

Any questions about why these assholes need to be shown the door, and why you need to do your part in making that happen?

Dick Morris Is Lying About Black Support Of Obama

Shocking, I know.  But Dick Morris is lying through his teeth when he says President Obama has lost support among African-Americans.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, his favorability rating among African-Americans has dropped off a cliff, plunging from 83 percent five months ago to a mere 58 percent today — a drop of 25 points, a bit more than a point per week!

Nothing is more crucial to the president’s reelection strategy than a super-strong showing among black voters. In the election of 2008, he was able to increase African-American participation from 11 percent of the total vote in 2004 to 14 percent. He carried 98 percent of them. This swing accounted for fully half of his gain over the showing of John Kerry. Now his ability to repeat that performance is in doubt.

The bolded part is an outright lie.  I will repeat this and call Mr. Morris out:  he is a liar and is lying on purpose to make President Obama look bad.  Here is what the poll actually said:

New cracks have begun to show in President Obama’s support amongst African Americans, who have been his strongest supporters. Five months ago, 83 percent of African Americans held “strongly favorable” views of Obama, but in a new Washington Post-ABC news poll that number has dropped to 58 percent. That drop is similar to slipping support for Obama among all groups.

So yes, the number of African Americans holding strongly favorable opinions of the President right now are down.  This is not the same as these opinions going to unfavorable, and Dick Morris knows it.  He thinks you're too stupid to notice.   And what's President Obama's actual, total favorability rating among African Americans, counting both strongly favorable and favorable positions?

Obama is strongest in the West, and has maintained substantial favorability among Hispanics (61 percent) as well as among African-Americans (86 percent).

That's right, 86 percent.  A far cry from the 58 percent that Dick Morris claims, because Dick Morris is an outright liar.  He takes one fact and claims it's another, and he does it on purpose to suggest that the President has lost 25 percent of African Americans in just a few months.  He hasn't.

But Dick Morris knows the news orgs aren't going to fact check him, not even the Washington Post or ABC News.  It was their poll after all, and the first thing they talk about is the drop among those strongly favorable numbers.  Is that a problem?  Yes.  Does it mean Obama has "lost blacks" as Morris's column implies?  No.  He's lying.  Period.  End of story.

But he'll go unchallenged by the people who should call him on it.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last Call

Yeah, this story has me hopping mad.  Turns out the banks had some help selling subprime garbage to minority groups, in particular Wells Fargo had radio host Tavis Smiley on their payroll selling crap loans during the housing bubble and now I can't think of anyone else who deserves the lawsuit against them as a result.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions:

As the housing market began booming in the mid-2000s, Wells Fargo & Co. teamed up with prominent African American commentator and PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley and financial author Kelvin Boston, the host of “Moneywise,” a multicultural financial affairs show, to host something called “Wealth Building” seminars in black neighborhoods.

Smiley was the keynote speaker, and the big draw, according to Boston and Keith Corbett, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending, who attended two of the seminars. Smiley would charge up the audience — and rattle the Wells Fargo executives in attendance — by launching into a story about how he hated banks, and how they used to refuse to lend him money for his real estate projects in Compton, Calif., and elsewhere. After Hurricane Katrina, Smiley also emphasized the importance of building assets and wealth, saying those who had done so were able to leave New Orleans, while people with nothing had to stay behind, Boston said.

Seems like a good plan, until Wells Fargo went in to close the sale.

But what appeared on the surface as a way to help black borrowers build wealth was actually just the opposite, according to a little-noticed explanation of the “Wealth Building” seminar strategy, contained in a lawsuit recently filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Wells’ plan for the seminars all along was to target black borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages, not for wealth-building, the suit charged. And the seminars were a part of the bank’s overall illegal and discriminatory practice of steering black and Hispanic borrowers into riskier and more expensive loans, the suit said.

“According to a former Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employee, one of these ‘Wealth Building’ seminars held in Maryland was planned for an audience that would be virtually all African American,” the suit said. “The plan for the seminar was for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employees to talk about subprime mortgages, although they were directed by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to use the term ‘alternative lending’ when marketing these products.”

The former employee, who is white, was scheduled to speak at the seminar, but was told by a manager that she was “too white,” and that only black employees could make presentations, the suit said.

Yeah, in other words, Tavis Smiley and Kelvin Boston  got paid to bring in the marks and Wells Fargo bagged subprime loans as a result.  Boston seems to be throwing Smiley under the bus pretty quickly in this story, and Smiley has said very little.

If I didn't think Smiley was a brazen opportunistic asshole before, I sure as hell do now.  Not everybody that ruined the economy for minorities was white, folks.

About As Bright As A Potted Plant

Because the Winger mindset is that everything political must be motivated by the unending desire to win more power, the only possible explanation of the "horrifying" exchange between the President and a Google employee named Doug Edwards at yesterday's LinkedIn town hall in Silicon Valley where Edwards asked the President to raise his taxes is that the employee had to be an obvious plant in the audience.

Oh, liberals gushed when a rich audience member asked Obama that question today. It seems relevant to point out that this rich liberal is Doug Edwards from the Obama-friendly and regulation-friendly Google.

Edwards has given $300,000 to politicians since 2000 -- every single dime to Democrats. He specifically said he wanted his higher taxes to cover Pell Grants.

Oh, the abject horror of that!  The wingers are in full poutrage mode this morning, with FOX Nation calling Evans a plant and Malkin shrieking about President Obama possibly doing something Bush 43 did for eight years without a peep out of her.

The Right's position on taxes is that every successful businessperson in the country succeeded in spite of them, not because of services and programs funded by them.  The fact that Massachusetts Dem Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren dared to call out conservatives on this has clearly struck one hell of a nerve, and the President took up Warren's argument yesterday at the town hall event.  Greg Sargent:

Conservatives have offered a number of responses to this argument. Some have insisted that if wealthy people like Buffett and the former Google exec want to pay higher taxes, by God, they should go ahead and pay higher taxes. But this badly misses the point: These men are making an argument about the imperative that their whole income group do more to help solve our fiscal mess, not just about their own desire to chip in more themselves. 

And that's what the modern GOP can't comprehend, the notion that with great wealth in society and the power and freedom that wealth brings there comes responsibility to help maintain that society.  Since as I mentioned before the only possible motivation in the GOP worldview is self-aggrandizement and the relentless pursuit of more wealth, it's simply a foreign concept to many of them.

It all comes down to whether or not you believe society's wealthy should work to make the system capable of producing more like themselves, or to do everything they can to produce fewer so that wealth stays with those who have it, and by dint of possession are those most capable and worthy of having it by making sure it's not "malinvested" with the unwashed, unworthy masses.

Or, as the joke goes, American exceptionalism means a bunch of people who were born on third base in life believing they got there because they hit a triple.

He's Just Doing His Job

Behold the power of the free market libertarian utopia.

While European government and financial leaders are scrambling to prevent a financial crisis in the Eurozone that would likely throw the global economy into even more turmoil, stock trader Alessio Rastani took to BBC today to tell the world that traders were looking forward to the possibility of a second big recession. “For most traders, it’s not about – we don’t really care that much how they’re going to fix the economy, how they’re going to fix the whole situation,” he said. “Our job is to make money from it.” Rastani, who also claimed “Goldman Sachs rules the world,” said, “Personally, I’ve been dreaming of this moment for three years…I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession. When the market crashes… if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this.

Of course if you're not in position to take advantage of another recession that will likely wreck our economy for another decade or more, that's not really Alessio Rastani's problem now, is it?  There's no wrong or right, no black or white, only green green green.  That's the best part about the GOP "wreck the economy by making sure nothing gets done to prevent another financial crisis" plan:  if you know the catastrophe is coming, you can make money off of it.

Hey, that's all that matters, right?  Rest of the planet gets brutally Darwined and you win.  His job is to make money.  Who cares if people get destroyed while doing it?  It's your fault for being too poor not to play the game and win.

Bowels In An Uproar Over Juice

Fruits and veggies are helpful at preventing certain diseases.  Many components of fruit are helpful at preventing bowel cancer, including rectal cancer.  A new study suggests that fruit served in the form of juice may backfire, the sugar content actually raising the risk of cancer without the nutitional benefits that offset the risk.

As a diabetic, I can chip in on this to a degree.  I have to offset the nutritional value of sugary foods to make good choices.  Juice is a no-no because it offers no fiber or other benefits from fruit, so I have to get my vitamins from whole oranges and apples.  One thing the study overlooked was low-sugar offerings.  Mott's apple juice has a variety that has all the nutrients but half the sugar. 

There is a disclaimer in the article that explains this is a new study, and that it is difficult to measure food's affect on health when we eat a varied diet.  Some patterns emerge overall, such as limit red meat and increase fiber, but even red meat has a place in our diet, just in a smaller amount. 

It might just be that I am overwhelmed by the studies, but it seems to me every food has a benefit and a downside.  After all the studies are categorized and analyzed, I imagine the end result will still be "eat well and with variety and moderation."  Good advice then and now.

What Bon Would Like To Ask Candidates

It's time for all the politicians to start aligning themselves and we'll soon be bombarded by what every candidate says and how we all feel about it.  I thought I would get ahead of the curve and throw out some questions that would get to the root of some issues, at least for me.  Interviews are all a shell game now, misdirection combined with banter, and a slick talker can move past a question without saying anything... usually by making it into a similar but safer topic.

I know this isn't covering everything.  I don't even mention jobs or the economy, because I want to ask questions that might be missed, not the ones that every single interview will cover.  After you cover the obvious, there are always some frequently missed questions.  Here are a few of mine:

  • Instead of your list of what Obama has done wrong, what do you plan to continue?  We can't expect much when the entire country reboots every four years.  What is going in the right direction, and what should be done to continue it?
  • What are you going to do to protect our privacy?  The Patriot Act is a big deal, and it was supposedly for a specific purpose that has long since passed (it was weak to begin with).  Are you going to give us our rights back and defend us against powers of abuse?  People need peace of mind and protection. Still, in my opinion this was the worst Bush-ism that Obama failed to put right.
  • Rather than what you believe (though of course that is a point of interest), do you plan to respect our right to be different?  Instead of restricting rights and legal recognition of lawful citizens, do you plan to represent all Americans?  Do you think it is right to allow one section of Americans to tell another how to live their personal lives, or are you finally willing to allow gay families to be acknowledged as Americans?  I mean, they pay taxes, fight in our military, teach our children and save our lives in hospitals.  Do you believe they deserve a voice?
  • What are you going to do to bring the country together?  What are your plans to empower the working and protect the poor?  What incentives are you going to bring that will change the state of life for hundreds of thousands of hungry people?
  • How have you handled mistakes in your past?  Everyone has them, that's not the concern.  But were they buried in lies and outrage, or dealt with quickly and professionally?  Are you the type to pretend you're perfect, or are you a realist and able to react quickly when you see an adjustment is required?

Those are the things I'd like to know about, even though it isn't nearly the equivalent of foreign policy or economic balance.  It speaks to me about their views and the things I can expect from them.  I got a taste of what it was like to have a mature, thoughtful leader, and I hope we continue in that direction.  The bottom line is how are they going to bring us together, and how are we going to climb out of this mess?  It's going to take more than an endless supply of bullshit to get that done.

What are you guys watching for?  We should assemble a few points to follow as we go into 2012.  What is on your minds?

Shutdown Countdown: Here We Go Again, Part 5

Looks like the Dems held their ground on the FEMA/disaster relief provisions in the Senate and the Republicans have caved totally with a 79-12 vote.  So how did the Dems win?

What ultimately broke the impasse was FEMA's announcement Monday that it won't run out of funds early this week -- a presumption House Republicans had hoped would force Senate Democrats to accept a partisan budget cut, on the threat that disaster victims would otherwise be deprived of assistance for days or even weeks.

Indeed, according to a Senate Democratic aide, FEMA has assured Congress that they will be flush through the end of the fiscal year on Friday night -- no need, in other words, for a supplemental funding bill.

When the need for emergency funds disappeared, though, so did the GOP's leverage and at the last minute Reid introduced a compromise: Clean legislation to fund the government -- including more money for FEMA, no offsets.

In other words, Republicans clearly overplayed their hands and got burned.  Dems presented a united front and the GOP had nothing to fight with.  Imagine that, Dems.  Despite the truly stupid notion that standing up for something as controversial as a clean disaster bill was picking a fight (because in Washington, the Dems should always cave to their Republican betters in the name of bipartisanship) Harry Reid and company got it done.

Well played, Mr. Senate Majority Leader.  This one is a solid win for the Democrats and for the American people.  Let's see more of this spinal fortitude thing, please.

That's the good news.  The bad?

Under the terms of the agreement, the Senate nixed all of the plans at the center of last week's government shutdown fight. In its place, it passed legislation to fund the government through mid-November, setting up the possibility of yet more bickering and brinkmanship about the budget in six weeks

So yeah, I'll pick up with Part 6 of this series in November.  Hooray.

Denial Is A River In Wisconsin, Too

Looks like I have to throw another brick at PolitiFact.

The Democratic Governors Association said Walker "is denying Democrats the right to vote."

It can be argued that Wisconsin’s photo ID law will lead some people who tend to vote for Democrats to stop voting. It’s certainly true that most Wisconsin residents who don’t have a photo ID will have to get one in order to vote.

But words matter. The association goes too far in saying Walker is denying Democrats the right to vote. That is simply not the case.

We rate the claim as Pants on Fire.

Really?  Because it seems to me the entire purpose of every Republican-born voter ID law is to indeed deny traditional Democratic groups from voting.  It indeed places barriers interfering with the right to vote, and does it in such a way that it reduces turnout for Democrats.  Hell, PolitiFact freely admits that much.

The DGA’s evidence essentially amounts to a prediction that the photo ID law would cause some voters who tend to back Democrats to stop voting. Giangreco replied by saying: "I think that the (photo ID) law is tantamount to denying people the right to vote."

It seems to me that it's at worst half-true by PolitiFact standards, but that in an of itself would be a tacit admission that the sole purpose of voter ID laws in red states is to reduce turnout among Democrats.  Lord knows we can't have anybody fact check that particular claim.  Better to call it Pants on Fire lie and dismiss the controversy altogether.

Funny how that works.  Claiming something factually incorrect that "goes too far" is the standard for the dreaded Pants On Fire rating at PolitiFact, even if there's some truth to the matter as the site admits, but apparently that standard doesn't apply to Herman Cain, Rick Perry (who gets several passes), Orange Julius, or for a crapload of Michele Bachmann lies.

Go figure.

Moving Forward At Your Own Perry-il, Part 9

A two-fer for Rick Perry idiocy today at people are starting to take a closer look at how the Texas Republican has really run the state as Governor, and the results are frighteningly bad.  First, he has a Bush-like crony capitalism problem:

In 2008, Larry Soward, one of three commissioners on Texas' environmental regulatory agency, cast the lone dissenting vote against licensing a controversial low-level nuclear disposal site in far West Texas.

Looking back now, Soward says, "it didn't take too much of a rocket-scientist" to conclude that the project — pushed by one of Gov. Rick Perry's biggest political donors — would ultimately be approved.

Dallas multibillionaire Harold Simmons' successful quest to build the Andrews County facility is encountering renewed scrutiny now that his political beneficiary is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Simmons has donated $1.2 million to Perry's gubernatorial campaigns since 2001 to become Perry's second-largest individual contributor, according to Texans for Public Justice, a state watchdog organization. He also has donated $100,000 to an independent political action committee that sought to wage a write-in candidacy for Perry in the Iowa straw poll this year.

And second, his state appointments have no problem taking tens of millions away from Texas schools to give it to oil refineries.

Three commissioners appointed by Gov. Rick Perry may grant some of the nation's largest refineries a tax refund of more than $135 million , money Texas' cash-strapped schools and other local governments have been counting on to help pay teachers and provide other public services.

The refund would mean more pain for some communities after a year in which state lawmakers had to grapple with a $27 billion shortfall and slashed spending on public schools by more than $4 billion. Nearly half the refund would be taken from public schools, and those in cities where the refineries are based would be hurt the most.

"We were already cut at the knees as it is, but more cuts? It's appalling," said Patricia Gonzales, a single mother of 13-year-old twins at Park View Intermediate School in Pasadena, a refinery town just south of Houston. Gonzales was just elected president of the school's new parent-teacher organization, which was formed this summer after the state budget cuts left the school lacking everything from pencils to paper towels.

Sorry, Texas schools.  $4 billion in cuts to education isn't enough, we have to give tax refunds to oil companies and yank even more money from your budget.  Tough.  That's what Republicans do to public education: if you were meant to go to school, God would have made your parents rich enough to afford a private one.

Rick Perry's Inconsequential America rolls on...



Monday, September 26, 2011

Last Call

FOX News chief Roger Ailes has dropped all pretense of "fair and balanced" and instead feels the need to admit what the network was put on Earth to do:  push GOP talking points.

Ailes has a blunt rejoinder to those who say he runs a biased outfit: “Every other network has given all their shows to liberals. We are the balance.” Even MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, “tacks to the center,” Ailes complains, and “doesn’t act like a conservative.”

I'm sure that's a surprise to George Will, David Gregory, Candy Crowley and all the other "both sides do it" fetishists.  I wonder what their response to Ailes will be since everyone not on FOX is apparently a Dirty Effin' Hippie liberal right now.

Most likely they'll come to the conclusion that they need to double down on their Obama bashing, if only to show professional courtesy to Ailes' crew and take some of the workload off them, no doubt.  After all, "liberal" is just about the worst insult you can direct at any member of the Washington press corps, and Ailes has made his fortunes off making it that way.

Time to go long on fainting couch manufacturers and jewelry stores with plenty of pearls to be clutched.  Hell, the piece in question up there was written my Howard Kurtz, and includes this:

Ailes raises a Fox initiative that he cooked up: “Are our producers on board on this ‘Regulation Nation’ stuff? Are they ginned up and ready to go?” Ailes, who claims to be “hands off” in developing the series, later boasts that “no other network will cover that subject … I think regulations are totally out of control,” he adds, with bureaucrats hiring Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life.” It is a message his troops cannot miss.

But he's fair and balanced, Kurtz will tell you.

Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.

If that's true, then it's the mainstream that's moving, not FOX News.  Isn't that great?

When All Other Possibilities Are Eliminated...Part 2

This weekend's post on Melissa Harris-Perry's piece at The Nation about the lack of real discussion about race among liberals touched a few nerves at ABLC, and I am very glad to see the fact she handily responds to her critics at the Nation today.

I logged onto Twitter on Sunday night and discovered that my recent article for The Nation was causing a bit of a stir. Some members of the white liberal political community are appalled and angry that I suggested racial bias maybe responsible for the President’s declining support among white Americans. I found some responses to my piece to be fair and important, others to be silly and nonresponsive, and still others to be offensive personal attacks. But those categories are par for the course.

I make it a practice not to defend my public writings. Because I often write about provocative topics like race, gender, sexual orientation and reproductive rights, if I defended every piece I wrote against critics I would find little time to sleep. But the responses to this recent article have been revealing in ways that I find typical of our contemporary epistemology of race. Often, those of us who attempt to talk about historical and continuing racial bias in America encounter a few common discursive strategies that are meant to discredit our perspectives. Some of them are in play here.

Do read the entire piece, it's worth it if only to arm yourself with the knowledge of the fallacies that have been thrown at people who have brought the topic up in the past.

The ending is worth it:

Further, I am grateful to live in a time when white Americans are furious about anyone suggesting that they are racist. I much prefer to live in a country and at a moment where the idea of being racist is distasteful rather than commonplace. In many ways the angry reaction about even the suggestion of racial bias is a kind of racial progress.

And I have to agree, that is progress.  But the piece also reveals just how much additional progress is needed.   Until we can have a frank and open discussion about what people consider to be offensive, what is racism, and relations between all races, we're not going to get much further down this path.

What continues to floor me is that if you ask a group of liberals about the need to discuss with an open mind the issues that life-long Democrats have with LGBT or women's issues, you'll not only get agreement but most likely a smart discussion of what those issues are and how we need to address them as Americans.

If you mention that there are life-long Democrats that have issues with race, you get furious denials, tactically deployed straw men, and ad hominem malarkey.  To the credit of our readers here and at ABLC, they are the exception.

A Cheesy Farewell

Arch West, a former Frito-Lay executive and creator of Doritos, will be buried with the chips that made him famous.

The 97-year-old died of natural causes on Sept. 20 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas, his family confirmed in a statement over the weekend.

During a graveside service scheduled for 10:30 a.m. this Saturday at the Restland Memorial Park, his family has plans to toss Doritos chips in "before they put the dirt over the urn," West's daughter Jana Hacker told The Dallas Morning News.

It's sad to see someone who influenced us so much go away. I'm sorry to hear he's gone (though at 97, what death isn't from natural causes?) but someone who contributed something so influential deserves recognition.  I buy a product he's responsible for just about every week, and just now realized I never knew who brought such a fabulous idea to our shelves.

RIP, Mr. West.  I have elevated you to celebrity status, because you deserve it.

Pawlenty Of Problems On The Wingnut Gravy Train

It seems in the wake of Glenn Beck's departure, the Wingnut Welfare office for failed GOP presidential candidates is closed.

Three weeks after dropping out of the race, Tim Pawlenty showed up to ask for a gig at Fox. But there was a complication: Pawlenty was on the verge of endorsing Romney. “I’m not sure I want to sign you as a paid spokesman for Romney,” Ailes said.

Ouch. Sorry T-Paw. No cushy FOX gig for you, it seems. Maybe Ailes is realizing the being the paid propaganda arm of the GOP means you have to deal with...supporting the GOP.

Or maybe Ailes is just seeing the Tea Party he created turn into a completely uncontrollable mess. Clearly, Republicans are bad for business even at FOX.

Hugh Gotta Know When To Say When

Enough, Hugh.  In the last ten years, Playboy as a brand has gone downhill and a Twitter war with a bimbo was the death blow.  I learned a lot about interviewing from reading the magazine (though I despise her, the interview with CSI's Jorja Fox was in-freaking-credible).  In fact, I actually have a tremendous amount of respect for the writing and their editorial standards, but everything else associated with Playboy is going to hell in a handbasket.

They jumped the shark when they went on TV.  Part of the allure (besides the honestly great articles!) was the mystery of the parties and the celebrity scene.  We saw way too much of Hefner and the ladies.  Other stars stayed away for the most part.  Any mystery was long gone, and it left on the same boat as our respect and their collective dignity.  Then there were the spin-offs which were utterly unnecessary.  In fact, they took unnecessary to exciting new levels.  I had hoped to find that there was some intelligence behind the salon hair and fake boobs.  Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed.

The worst of all was the highly publicized failed wedding of Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris.  The couple aired their dirty laundry on radio, television and Twitter.  The punchline is that nobody really gives a damn.  Hef's rants on sex and frequency reeks of protesting too much, and Crystal is just trying to form complex sentences without a prompter.  We get it, Hugh.  You get more ass than a park bench.  You get more Tang than NASA.  You get laid more than AstroTurf.  We don't need your yammering at the media to know what happens at the mansion, and we sure as hell don't need a second helping all these months later.

Let.  It.  Go.

Lock Of Hair Unlocks History

A lock of hair has helped scientists to piece together the genome of Australian Aborigines and rewrite the history of human dispersal around the world.

DNA from the hair demonstrates that indigenous Aboriginal Australians were the first to separate from other modern humans, around 70,000 years ago.

This challenges current theories of a single phase of dispersal from Africa.

This graphic shows the new paths taken.  Referred to as "Jurassic Park science" by some, this gives us insight into how humans traveled and developed cultures along the way.  A tiny percentage of difference helps map their progress over thousands of years, and may eventually help explain why some cultures and peoples became extinct.  What was once unexplained or written off as poor luck may be explained now with medical and historic data.  It's also interesting to note how they split off.  Australia has always been a continent with a lot of history, this may also have a positive influence on more research in that area.

Gold Rush, Part 22

Gold is rushing alright:  straight down the tubes.

Gold was set for its biggest three-day loss in 28 years on Monday, as investors fled commodity markets in a scramble to secure cash in the face of mounting fear over the impact of a potential Greek debt default on the rest of the euro zone.

European policymakers began working on new ways to stop fallout from Greece's near-bankruptcy from inflicting more damage on the world economy after stinging criticism for failing to stem the debt crisis.

European equities fell, while industrial commodities such as crude oil and base metals bore the brunt of investor desire for cash in the face of mounting uncertainty.

In the last three days alone, gold has fallen by nearly 10 percent in its largest three-day slide since February 1983 and implied volatility has risen to a 2-1/2 year high.

Spot gold was last down 3.0 percent on the day at $1,621.49 an ounce by 0903 GMT, having fallen earlier by as much as 7.4 percent, putting the difference between the intraday high and low at $128.40, the largest daily price swing on record.

Gosh, you mean gold is the next bubble to pop the way oil did in 2008?  But the hyperinflationist crew told us that gold would skyrocket!

In a sense, gold really is up big from just a few years ago and still is.  The problem is gold is up the same way housing was up during 2001-2008, and when it blew it took out all the floors.  Housing prices are still dropping three years later and there's just no bottom in sight.  Gold pushing $1,900 then now $1,600 means there's just as much market instability and volatility there are there is in stocks right now.

Meanwhile in a world where the dollar is "increasingly worthless" and "America is broke" and "hyperinflation is imminent" interest rates on US bonds 5 years and shorter continue to be well below 1%.

Still waiting for the Weimar Republic of the US, I guess.
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