Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Call

A pretty laughable decision today on Obamacare from Federal Judge Roger Vinson of Florida:

US District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, a Reagan appointee, agreed with the 26 states that brought the lawsuit, and said Congress cannot penalize individuals that do not buy insurance by 2014.

"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void," he declared in the ruling.

The entire law.   But, he's not an activist judge or anything.  The ruling itself is a joke, but it serves to assure the ruling will end up in front of the Supreme Court sooner rather than later.

In the end, this will all come down to what Anthony Kennedy feels like thinking one day.  But I never want to hear the words "activist judge" out of another conservative's mouth when one man decides he can overrule Congress and the President after a year plus of deliberation and town hall meetings across the country.

Steve Benen says it best:

Indeed, overall, about a dozen federal courts have dismissed challenges to the health care law.

In other words, when you hear on the news that "courts" have a problem with the Affordable Care Act, remember that it's actually a minority of the judges who've heard cases related to the law.

Only 2 out of over a dozen judges have a problem with the law.  Still, the only opinion that will count belongs to the Supreme Court.

Anarchy On Your Tea Vee Screen

It's finally hit me that the Tea Party objects most to government itself...they're anarchists.

A state lawmaker from Marietta is sponsoring a bill that seeks to do away with Georgia driver's licenses.

State Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, has filed House Bill 7, calling it the "Right to Travel Act."In his bill, Franklin states, "Free people have a common law and constitutional right to travel on the roads and highways that are provided by their government for that purpose.

Licensing of drivers cannot be required of free people, because taking on the restrictions of a license requires the surrender of an inalienable right."Franklin told CBS Atlanta News that driver's licenses are a throw back to oppressive times.

“Agents of the state demanding your papers," he said. "We’re getting that way here.”

So, I'm assuming that Rep Franklin here will be resigning, because the logical endpoint of his argument (not everyone agrees with the rules in a democracy, ergo some people are being disenfranchised, ergo it's unconstitutional) is of course no government at all.

Tea Partiers are anarchists.  They're opposed to governance, period.  Because if they can't be in power all the time, they'll be damned sure to make it so that no one else will be able to govern.

Our way or scorched earth.  Those are your choices, America.

Very Strange Bedfellows Indeed

The two countries screaming the loudest for the world (and especially the United States) to back off of Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt are Saudi Arabia...and Israel.

Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak's ouster.

Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.

Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt's stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible. 

Israel especially is pulling the hard line that they don't really give a damn about Egypt's democracy or freedom or whatever the hell if there's a chance that whomever replaces Mubarak may become a problem on Israel's western border.

"The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren't considering their genuine interests," one senior Israeli official said. "Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they're not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications." 

Democracy is relative, apparently.  It usually is when it comes to strongman secular regimes clamping down on a Muslim nation, but Egypt isn't terribly religious to begin with, not after 30 years of Mubarak.  The truth is Israel was more than happy to have Mubarak be a ruthless bastard to his own people:  it saved Israel the trouble of having to mess with the western border into Gaza.

Now the Israelis and the Saudis are nervous, and any time both of them are on the same side on an issue, you can bet the US will follow.  Don't count on the US helping to oust Mubarak, either.

The Tea Party Has Officially Taken Over The GOP

According to the latest numbers from Gallup even a majority of Democrats say the Republicans should listen to the Tea Party.


Even Gallup's flustered by this.

Although few Democrats (6%) are supporters of the Tea Party or even have a favorable view of it (11%), more than half say it is important that the Republican Party take the Tea Party's positions into account. Why this is the case is unclear, although Democrats may simply feel that the opposing party should pay attention to all of its constituencies.

Well, maybe it's because there's a number of folks like myself who think the Republicans should embrace the crazy as tightly as possible heading into the 2012 elections, and do it as often as possible.

By all means, count me in that "very important" group.

Issa Gonna Be A Long Two Years

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa has been House Oversight chairman for less than a month, and he's already breaking out the intimidation stick.  His first target:  dragging everyone in the financial crisis Inquiry Commission up before Congress to explain why anyone would dare place even partial blame on the banks that donate big money to guys like Issa.

The conservative Republican has decided the investigation needs an investigation, and according to the Financial Times, has demanded that the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission turn over its emails and related records to the committee for review.

Keep in mind, there have been no accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the commission; Issa says he just wants to look around and see what, if anything, he can turn up.

He's just going after them because he has the power to do so.  And of course, it gets worse:

This is, by the way, the same Issa who, just three weeks on the job, announced that he wants his committee to have a running list of everyone who files Freedom of Information Act requests. If this makes you uncomfortable, you're not alone -- it "just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking," said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. "It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good."

For a guy who promised a "new era of Washington transparency" he sure is transparently trying to play power games, huh.

Profit Motive De-Motivator

Meanwhile significantly higher oil prices (roughly $90 a barrel) in 4Q 2010 compared to 4Q 2009 means energy company profit margins are also significantly higher.

Exxon Mobil Corp reported a better-than-expected 53 percent increase in quarterly profit as an improving world economy sparked higher demand for fuel and chemicals as crude oil prices rose.

It reported a fourth-quarter profit of $9.25 billion, or $1.85 per share, compared with $6.05 billion, or $1.27 per share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.63 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Oil-equivalent production rose 19 percent from the year-ago quarter, lifted by liquefied natural gas operations in Qatar, the Irving Texas company said on Monday.

Big money in big oil, and increasingly bigger money in natural gas.  If you think companies like this are looking at Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen and are seeing nothing but larger and larger dollar signs, you're right on the money.   If anything happens to the Suez Canal in Egypt, well...let's just say energy companies aren't going to be hurting.

American De-Nile Of Mubarak

Not all the protests against Mubarak are being held in Egypt.

Hundreds of opponents of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak called at a rally in Washington for his overthrow and urged Washington to "stand on the right side of history" and cut off aid to his regime.

Amid a sea of Egyptian and American flags and protest placards in English and Arabic with slogans including "Pharaoh no more" and "Overthrow Mubarak," the crowd, estimated at between 900 and 1,000, took turns leading chants in front of the Egyptian embassy.

"Mubarak has to go," shouted Ayman Hodhod, standing atop snow-covered security barriers.

"America should get on the right side of history and stop giving financial aid to Mubarak because he uses it to abuse his own people," said Hodhod, who had traveled from the midwestern state of Minnesota for the rally.

Mohammed Eid grabbed a megaphone, pointed it toward the embassy and led the protesters in chants in Arabic of "Down, down Mubarak" and "Seven million jobless in Egypt."

As that round of noise stopped, an emotional Amal el Bahi took up a new mantra of "Mubarak must go," shouting to the edge of hoarseness as the crowd joined in.

A pretty interesting sight here in the States, and a not-so-gentle reminder that yeah, a lot of folks are serious about Egypt being an actual democracy.  Hey, after all, you can peaceably assemble here for purposes like this, especially if you don't agree with folks.

Such Concern Etched In Their Faces

In their zeal to restrict abortions in the country, House Republicans (and the remaining Blue Dog Dems) are taking to the repugnant tactic of wanting to redefine what constitutes rape in order to define what qualifies as an exception for allowing abortion funding.

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, with another exemption covering pregnancies that could endanger the life of the mother.

But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to drastically limit the definition of rape and incest in these cases. The bill, with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors, has been dubbed a top priority in the new Congress by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible.

For example, if a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. Rep. Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.

Given that the bill would also forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents would also not be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense. 

Statutory rape?  Too bad...wingers want you to have the kid.  So why the "forcible rape" provision?

Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill's authors are "using language that's not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection."

Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes.
"There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included," Levenson says.

As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.

The bill hasn't been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.

Ding ding ding!  Once again the goal is to make abortions impossible to get under any circumstances.  Who cares about the woman being raped?  Republicans certainly don't give a damn.

And remember, this is a "priority" now among House Republicans.  What happened to jobs, housing, and the economy, guys?  Too bad, we've got a whole lot of wombs to regulate!

A Price Tag Question

Kentucky Democrats in the State House are attacking Senate Republicans' controversial immigration proposal on its price tag.

House Local Governments Chairman Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, said the Senate might have approved Senate Bill 6 earlier this month "as a symbolic vote to deal with illegal immigrants.

"What I wonder about is if they considered how practical it is to implement," he said.

The bill would allow police to ask about an immigrant's legal status during a "lawful contact" such as stopping a vehicle for having a taillight out. It also would create crimes for smuggling illegal immigrants for profit and "aiding and abetting" illegal immigrants to come to Kentucky.

Riggs said he wants to know where illegal immigrants would be jailed. He said about 98 percent of Kentucky's 17,700 jail beds are filled.

"That means we have about 250 beds open in our county jails," he said. "It's been estimated that we have 30,000 to 50,000 illegal immigrants — about 1 percent of the state's population.

"If we did round up all the illegals, where would we put them?" 

Riggs also said he wants to know what effect the bill would have on business.

"It's been estimated that Arizona, with its strict immigration bill, is going to lose $120 million in revenue from businesses that are boycotting the state with their conventions," he said.

These are practical questions that state Republicans have refused to answer so far, and there's not going to be a good answer for them, unless you think the image of rounding up folks and putting them in "emergency immigration camps" is a good one for the state.

So far Kentucky looks like it's going to resist Arizona style immigration insanity...for now.  Things may be far different after November should the state get a Republican Governor to replace Democrat Steve Beshear.


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