Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Last Call

South Dakota lawmakers have introduced a state bill to require anyone 21 or over to purchase a gun for defense. Here's the "logic" behind this:

Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, is sponsoring the bill and knows it will be killed. But he said he is introducing it to prove a point that the federal health care reform mandate passed last year is unconstitutional.

“Do I or the other cosponsors believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not. But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance,” he said.

Because if you're a winger, the state of South Dakota requiring you to buy a gun for defense is the same thing as the federal government requiring you to purchase health insurance.  It's not...but these are wingers.   They know it's unconstitutional, but they can't discern the difference between firearms and health insurance and are purposely not doing so.

Only one problem...like Steve M. here I'm betting a large number of Tea Party folks think passing this bill and the notion that it's unconstitutional and will be ruled as such is a travesty and a stupid idea.  I'm betting a whole lot of folks on the right think the federal government should require all Americans who are legally allowed to own a firearm to have one.

It's bad enough this is coming on the heels of Tuscon.  But this entire thing is going to backfire on the wingers.

The Mask Slips Again

And Republicans accidentally tell the truth.  Today's Freudian flip-flopper is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

"If you took half the states out of the individual mandate requirement, this bill falls, requiring us to draft something new, and quite frankly that is the goal," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "To find a way to get the Congress to redo this bill.... We want this bill to come to an end."

I'm sure they'll get to jobs any week now.

Graham has teamed up with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) on legislation that would allow states to opt out of the farthest-reaching provisions of health care reform: the Medicaid expansion, minimum insurance benefit standards and the individual and employer mandates. Any state that successfully opted out of any of these provisions would diminish the extent of health care coverage in their state, and throw a wrench in the machinery of the law system itself. 

So no, Republicans couldn't really give a damn about Americans being in trouble, or the unemployment rate, or stagnant wages, or apparently rising health care costs, or anything else.

They want to refight the health care debate because they lost.  That's all that matters to them.  That's the goal, to waste as much of the next two years as possible on this petty garbage and blame Obama when nothing happens.

That's the plan for the next two years, folks:  nothing.  The Party of No marches on, bravely not doing a damn thing about America's problems.

Denial Really Is A River In Egypt, Part 2

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will indeed step down.

In September.

Castigating "political interests" that sought to cause unrest in Egyptian society, President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday he would not seek reelection at the end of his term in Sept.

"I instructed the vice president to engage in dialog with all the political forces on all the issues raised for politicial and democratic reforms," Mubarak said during a broadcast of Egyptian state television.

"I address you today, directly, to the people of the nation. Farmers, workers, Muslims and Christians. Elderly and youth. Each Egyptian man and woman in the countryside and cities across the nation. I never sold power and influence. People are aware of the harsh conditions I shouldered with responsibility."

He said he was "totally committed to ending his career" with dignity and in an orderly manner.

"In the few months remaining in my current term," Mubarak said he would "guarantee the transition of power." He further called on parliament to amend the Constitution to add presidential term limits.

Mubarak's term ends in September, but protesters have demanded he leave office right away.

The whole "I'm going to stick around for another seven months" thing isn't really going over well with the people in Egypt, needless to say.  It's worth noting that Jordanian King Abdullah has dismissed his cabinet as well and named a new Prime Minister.  But it's not going to be good enough.  Somebody needs to make it clear to Mubarak that there's a plane waiting for him, and needs to be on it before things get truly ugly.

Democrats Go To My Old Neck Of The Woods

The Dems have picked Charlotte as the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The decision signals that President Barack Obama intends to fight again in some of the states that his 2008 presidential campaign brought into the Democratic column for the first time in decades. North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana all went for Mr. Obama. He faces headwinds in all three states again, though North Carolina’s high number of African American voters will give him a boost there. In 2008, 23% of the state’s presidential election voters were black.

Mrs. Obama said in her email that “Barack and I spent a lot of time in North Carolina during the campaign . . . Barack enjoyed Asheville so much when he spent several days preparing for the second presidential debate that our family vacationed there in 2009.”

Mrs. Obama also promised it would be “a grassroots convention.” “We will finance this convention differently than it’s been done in the past, and we will make sure everyone feels closely tied in to what is happening in Charlotte. This will be a different convention, for a different time.”

Smart move.  North Carolina narrowly went for Obama in 2008 and any Republican challenger will have to take the Tar Heel State back in order to have any shot in 2012.   Pretty sure Zandardad is happy about this, and hey, while you guys are in Charlotte pick up some Bojangles.

About time somebody paid attention to North Carolina's growing political power as a swing state.

The Pause That Refreshes

Refreshes the reminder that Mitt Romney should really keep his mouth shut on health care issues, that is.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is calling on President Barack Obama to "press the pause button" on the federal health care overhaul in the wake of a judge's decision declaring it unconstitutional.

Romney tells ABC's "Good Morning America" that "we don't need the government imposing a one-size-fits-all system" on the states.

Romney acknowledged that his own health care law in Massachusetts contained the same kind of individual insurance mandate that a judge in Florida found unconstitutional in the federal law, but says he isn't apologizing for it. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, sought to make a distinction between the options that a state might choose under the 10th Amendment compared with Washington deciding the policy for all states in a single legislative act. 

See, so states can do it, but if the federal government tries to do it, we must gather in the streets or something. Sure Mitt, that makes tons of sense if you believe there's no sovereign federal control over states and we're fifty separate entities, and not the United States of America.

Yeah, see, that distinction won't fool his political opponents for a millisecond.

Star Trekkin' Across The Universe

Yet another example of sci-fi TV tech getting closer to reality.

Last month, Google unveiled its latest innovation, an app for phones that can near-simultaneously translate speech from one language to another.

"Google Conversation," so far only available to translate between Spanish and English, generated excited headlines speculating that a true universal translator -- an idea popularized by "Star Trek" -- might be just around the corner.

It's easy to get swept up by the buzz. Google's current text-based "Translate" online software is as good as it's ever been, allowing users to get reasonably faithful translations between scores of languages.

The company is also adapting its "Google Goggles" picture recognition software to allow phone users to translate signs. Recently it said it was looking at taking the quantum leap into translating poetry.

Google Product Manager Awaneesh Verma admitted when launching "Translate" that the device was "still in its earliest stages," and early demos have shown it to be a little shaky at performing its task.

Nevertheless, the potential is obvious. If the technology improves we could all soon be roaming the world as polyglots, freely conversing in any language and dialect.

Sadly, say experts in the field, we could be waiting some time -- a fact that becomes painfully clear when looking at the history of computerized translation.

Still has a long way to go....

Issa Gonna Be A Long Two Years, Part 2

Republican House Oversight committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa has literally been given a laundry list of concerns by big business to get rid of as many regulations and consumer protections as possible.  After all, these are the corporation that have paid for the GOP, and they want their money's worth.

The one that most neatly reflects the priorities of the conservative movement comes from the Heritage Foundation, which is asking Issa to attack decades worth of regulatory and statutory worker and consumer protections.
Here's the laundry list:
  • Individual health insurance mandate
  • Employer health insurance mandate
  • Minimum health insurance benefit standards
  • All future Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations
  • Limiting debit card fees
  • Transparency for shareholders
  • Credit card regulation
  • Incandescent light bulb phase out
  • Broader energy efficiency standards
  • Fuel efficiency standards
  • Carbon pollution regulation
  • Auto tailpipe standard
  • Renewable fuel standards
  • Low-income housing promotion
  • Corporate accounting requirements
  • Net neutrality
  • Corporate media ownership rules
  • Dairy price controls
  • Domestic sugar subsidization
Read the whole thing here

All of those have to go, according to conservatives.  Too much regulation of the corporations that fund the GOP, and apparently Issa job as seen through the eyes of corporate America is to get rid of these pesky rules and regs so that the Mighty Hand Of The Free Market can control the world.  Of course, the corporations control the Mighty Hand, so it's all good if you're them.

If you're a consumer, well, government oversight's not for the little people. You don't have enough money "free speech" to make yourself heard.

Powerful Whine

Steve M. recounts the story of conservative blogger and lawyer Paul Mirengoff, formerly of the blog Power Line, and wants to know why other conservatives are up in arms over this at all.  The reason Mirengoff is formerly of the blog involves a less than flattering comment about Native Americans, of which Mirengoff's employer, DC law firm Akin Gump, does quite a bit of business with.  Steve sums up the outrage:

There are a lot of ways you can look at this, but I think one way you have to look at it is the American way: This is America, which means your boss can set all kinds of work rules for you and if you don't like them and they're not specifically enjoined by law, well, tough noogies. And that's what you'd expect the response to be, universally, on the right. Right?

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course that wasn't the response on the right. The response on the right was: One of our guys got mistreated by an employer! Fascism! Totalitarianism!

I gotta go with Steve on this one. These guys have advocated for "the Free Market" meaning "you're an at-will employee serving at the pleasure of your company's HR department."  They've been brutally against unions and worker's rights, saying they drive up the cost of labor and make America uncompetitive.  Well, one of them found out the hard way what the practical endpoint of all that really means.

Put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine a lefty lawyer/blogger of the previous decade bashing Bush on a blog even as his/her firm labored to maintain chummy relationships with the Dubya White House. Wouldn't Jacobson and McCain defend to the death the firm's right to press the lawyer to quit blogging? They might even howl for immediate termination and clawback of wages, no?

I don't recall these guys shedding a tear when Jason Levin lost his teaching job, or when Eason Jordan lost his job at CNN. So when they beg me to shed tears for Mirengoff, well, I'm unmoved.

Does that mean Col. Mustard's taking up the union cause now for bloggers?  That would be a hell of a thing.  Welcome to employment in the post crisis era, gentlemen.  You are 100% expendable in an employer's market.  You can and will be replaced .  Mirengoff chose his job over his blog of years and his employer didn't even blink making him choose.

Still think collective bargaining is a bad idea?

Like Daughter, Unlike Father

 Former President George W. Bush has made his feelings known on same-sex marriage (not to mention his support of a Constitutional amendment barring it and signing into law the Defense of Marriage Act.)  But at least one of his daughters says equality should reign.

Barbara Bush is coming out in support of gay marriage.

The 29-year-old daughter of President George W. Bush announces in a web video posted late Monday that she supports same-sex marriage. “I’m Barbara Bush and I’m a New Yorker for marriage equality,” she says. “New York is about fairness and equality. And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

The video is a 22-second spot for gay-rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality project. The group plans to show the video on Saturday at its annual gala in New York.

“Join us,” she says at the end, adding herself to a growing list of prominent New Yorkers, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who have appeared in brief videos supporting HRC’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

That puts daughters of Cheney, McCain, and now Bush on record as supporting same-sex marriage.  It's something that I think will be made national in my lifetime at least, but it could take quite a lot of time before it happens.

Still, every voice counts.  The struggle for civil rights has taught us that.


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